- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dennis Rodman landed Thursday on North Korean soil, a touted trip to train the nation’s top basketball stars that was scheduled before Kim Jong-un executed his uncle — a world-watched event that didn’t dissuade the NBA legend from staying clear of the dictator he describes as a friend.

It is not clear if Mr. Rodman will meet with Mr. Kim during this visit. If the two do not meet, this will be the first trip of three that the former NBA star hasn’t hooked up with the dictator, a fellow avid basketball follower. In fact, the two are so tight that Mr. Rodman has described him on several previous occasions as his “friend for life,” various media reported. He’s also called the leader — who recently purged his political party of dissenters and those perceived as less-than-loyal, like his uncle — a “very good guy,” CNN said.

This trip to the regime was sponsored by the online betting company Paddy Power, which sent along a film crew to tape Mr. Rodman’s work with the basketball team. The North Korean team is set for an exhibition match in Pyongyang on Jan. 8 — against former NBA players who have yet to be named, CNN reported.

Mr. Rodman’s first trip was in February. And after sitting together at a basketball game, Mr. Rodman reportedly told the young dictator, believed to be 32, “you have a friend for life,” CNN said.

Political pundits expect Mr. Kim’s government to take full public relations advantage of Mr. Rodman’s presence.

“Got to remember that Kim Jong-un needs to show that his regime, his government, is united, which it isn’t,” said Gordon Chang, a North Korean policy expert, in CNN. “With Dennis Rodman, we’re going to see a lot of made-for-television events. Everybody’s going to be smiling, everything will appear normal and this will bolster the regime.”



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