Upon arriving in North Korea for his third visit, Dennis Rodman, the former professional basketball player turned “friend for life” to the country’s mercurial young leader, was treated to a “gala supper” of seafood and chocolate cake, followed by an evening of karaoke with the state minister of sports, said a spokesman traveling with Rodman.
Rodman, in the country to train the North Korean national basketball team, has became a unlikely (and significantly pierced) face of Western engagement with the country’s young dictator Kim Jong-un.
Rodman “was very relaxed and excited to be back [in North Korea] to see old friends,” said Rory Scott, a spokesman for Paddy Power, the British sports gambling site that is sponsoring Rodman’s visit.
Following the “intimate dinner,” Rodman sang a karaoke version of a Pearl Jam song, while North Koreans in attendance sang patriotic songs.
Rodman and his entourage have been put up in a luxury hotel in Pyongyang, the country’s capital.
Rodman’s visit is the third since February, in which he first met Kim, the country’s 30-year-old supreme leader and avid basketball fan.
The visit comes on the heels of the young leader’s first significant political purge, in which he executed his uncle after accusing him of drug abuse, womanizing and attempting to foment a coup.
Ahead of Rodman’s visit, Shin Dong-hyuk, , the only person to have been born in a North Korean concentration camp who escaped to the West, wrote an open letter to Rodman reminding him that “It’s your right to drink fancy wines and enjoy yourself in luxurious parties, as you reportedly did in your previous trips to Pyongyang. But as you have a fun time with the dictator, please try to think about what he and his family have done and continue to do.”
Paddy Power’s Scott said Rodman had no idea whether Kim would meet with him as he has in the past, and that visit was apolitical.
Rodman is training the North Korean squad in preparation for a friendly match he is organizing with other former professional basketball players to be held sometime next year,
“This is not political, it’s a sports exchange,” said Scott. “Dennis really believes sports can play a big roll and some good can come out of this visit.