Flamboyant former basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Tuesday for a five-day visit, his second this year, but said he had no plans to negotiate the release of a jailed American missionary, Kenneth Bae. Bae, a Korean American who had been working as a Christian missionary in China and North Korea, was arrested in the northeast port city of Rason late last year.
“I’m not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae,” Rodman told Reuters in a telephone interview before he left Beijing for Pyongyang. “I’m just going there on another basketball diplomacy tour.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is a basketball fan and appeared to get on well with Rodman on the earlier visit, with the two of them pictured laughing, eating and drinking together and watching an all-star basketball match.
Wearing his trademark dark sunglasses, the 6-foot 7-inch (2.01 meter) Rodman said, “I’m just trying to go over there to meet my friend Kim, the Marshal. Try to start a basketball league over there, something like that.”
He called Kim, 30, who rules unchallenged in a country where there are an estimated 150,000-200,000 prisoners in work camps, “an awesome kid”.