PYONGYANG, North Korea -- Former NBA star Dennis Rodman landed Tuesday in North Korea for what he called a trip to hang out with authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un, have a good time and bridge some cultural gaps -- but not to be a diplomat.
The trip by the flamboyant basketballer -- his second to North Korea -- comes days after Pyongyang rejected a visit by a U.S. envoy who had hoped to bring home an American missionary jailed there, Kenneth Bae. Speaking to reporters ahead of his flight to Pyongyang, Rodman declined to say whether he would seek Bae's release. "I'm not going to talk about that," he said.
"I just want to meet my friend Kim, the marshal, and start a basketball league over there or something like that," said Rodman, wearing rings through his lower lip and each nostril. "I have not been promised anything. I am just going there as a friendly gesture."
Bae was arrested in November and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for what Pyongyang described as hostile acts against the state. Rodman once asked on his Twitter account for Kim to "do me a solid" and release Bae. Kim has the power to grant special pardons under the North's constitution.