March 9, 2014
Rodman lands in N.Korea for basketball on Kim's birthday
Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea today with a team of retired professional basketball players to mark the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
This marks Rodman's fourth trip to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, where he and his team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars will hold basketball games on Kim's birthday, which is believed to fall on Wednesday, although it has never been officially confirmed.
On previous visits, Rodman spent time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship, though he did not meet Kim on his third trip.
Rodman, however, said he will not interfere in the country's politics.
"People always say that North Korea is like a really communist country, that people are not allowed to go there," Rodman told reporters at an airport in Beijing. "I just know the fact that, you know, to me he's a nice guy, to me," he said of Kim.
"Whatever he does political-wise, that's not my job. I'm just an athlete, an individual who wants to go over there and play something for the world. That's it," he added.
Rodman's latest visit follows the rare public purge of Kim's powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed in December.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events in North Korea as a "reign of terror."
The purging of Jang, considered the second most powerful man in the north, was widely seen as a sign of factionalism within the secretive government.
The visit also comes as the United States government is trying to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American who worked as a Christian missionary before his arrest by North Korea and conviction in May on charges of crimes against the state.