Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman yesterday emerged from four days in North Korea, calling the leader of the reclusive country “an awesome kid.”
Rodman, known for his tattoos, body piercings and flamboyance, was in North Korea to film a sports documentary, and watched a basketball game alongside the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
Kim “is like his grandfather and his father, who are great leaders, he is an awesome kid, very honest and loves his wife so much,” Rodman told Xinhua news agency before leaving the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, yesterday.
Kim Jong-un, 30, is the grandson of Kim Il-sung, who founded North Korea, and the son of Kim Jong-il. Both ruled the country with an iron fist.
Kim has maintained his father’s drive to secure nuclear arms for his impoverished country, with North Korea last month conducting its third nuclear test, drawing the condemnation of world powers and the UN.
At Thursday’s basketball game, Rodman and Kim laughed and conversed in English, and later had an “amicable” dinner, Xinhua quoted the former Chicago Bulls player as saying.
“You have a friend for life,” Rodman told Kim before a crowd of thousands at a gymnasium where they sat side by side, chatting as they watched players from North Korea and the US play, Alex Detrick, a spokesman for the New York-based VICE media company, told reporters.
Kim attended secondary school in Switzerland, but his language abilities remain a mystery.
Xinhua said Kim told Rodman over dinner that he hoped further sports exchanges would promote “mutual understanding between peoples of the two countries.”
Asked how his visit might help, Rodman told the agency: “About the relationship, no one man can do anything. His country and his people love him. I love him, he is an awesome guy.”
Before meeting Kim, Rodman appeared to have mixed up North and South Korea, suggesting he might meet South Korean rapper Psy during his trip to the North.
Rodman came to North Korea to shoot footage for a show to air on the US television network HBO, a producer travelling with the group said.