Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman ‘s trip to North Korea is the second attention-grabbing American visit this year to North Korea. Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, made a four-day trip in January to Pyongyang, but did not meet the North Korean leader, like Rodman did.
In fact, Rodman called leader Kim Jong Un an “awesome guy” and said his father and grandfather were “great leaders.” “He’s proud, his country likes him — not like him, love him, love him,” Rodman said of Kim Jong Un. “Guess what, I love him. The guy’s really awesome.”
Rodman traveled to Pyongyang with three members of the professional Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy and a production crew to shoot an episode on North Korea for a new weekly HBO series. Rodman watched a basketball game with the authoritarian leader Thursday and later drank and dined on sushi with him. Kim and Rodman apparently “bonded” and chatted in English, though Kim primarily spoke in Korean through a translator.
Kim, a diehard basketball fan, told the former Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls star that he hoped the visit would break the ice between the United States and North Korea, said Shane Smith, founder of the New York-based VICE media company. Kim said he hoped sports exchanges would promote “mutual understanding between the people of the two countries,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.