Dennis Rodman hasn’t changed his plans to train North Korea’s basketball team, even after leader Kim Jong Un ruthlessly executed his own uncle. In fact he’s planning a birthday celebration for the controversial leader.
The former Chicago Bull said this week that he still plans to travel to North Korea starting on Monday to train the national basketball team. Rodman says the trip will also involve an exhibition game in Pyongyang to celebrate Kim’s birthday. Though Rodman has not yet revealed the roster for the game, he said a number of former NBA stars have already committed.
The announcement comes just days after leader Kim Jong Un ordered his uncle Jang Song Thaek to be executed in what was seen as a ruthless show of power. Jang had been North Korea’s No. 2 and was very close to Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il.
Dennis Rodman first traveled to North Korea in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO special produced by VICE television. He is one of only a handful of Americans to enter the country and the highest-profile American to meet Kim since he inherited power in 2011.
Rodman said he looks forward to the trip and hopes it can open relations between North Korea and the United States.
“Yes, I’m going to North Korea to train the basketball team,” he told The Associated Press by phone. “I’m going to bring American players over there. Yes I am. I’m going to be the most famous person in the world when you see American people holding hands and hoping the doors can be opened. If they can. If they can. If they can. I’m going. I’m going back for his birthday. Special.”
Dennis Rodman has generated a great deal of controversy with his North Korea visits. He has been criticized for not bringing more attention to North Korea’s human rights record, though in his last meeting he did press for the nation to release American prisoner Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for alleged political crimes.