Dennis Rodman is headed to North Korea once again to "to do a basketball game and have some fun" with Kim Jong-un, a very good friend of his and who just happens to have executed his own uncle last week. But that's no problem for the former basketball player, because Rodman is "not a politician."
Based on what's known of his schedule, North Korea's leader Kim has two priorities for the month of December: First, consolidate his power by eliminating the second most powerful man in the country through a highly unusual public purging; and second, talk b-ball with Dennis Rodman. The American has visited the country twice before, and this is the second time Rodman has made it clear that he wants to talk about basketball and not Kim's approach to humanitarian decency. This fall, Rodman told reporters that he wasn't going to ask his pal to free imprisoned American Kenneth Bae.
Here is what Rodman told Reuters about this week's visit to North Korea, shortly before he left Beijing to make the trip. While in North Korea, Rodman will train the country's basketball team:
"It has nothing to do with me. I mean, whatever his uncle has done, and whoever's done anything in North Korea, I have no control over that. I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years."
He added: "People have been saying these things here and there. It doesn't really matter to me. I'm not a politician. I'm not an ambassador." Instead, Rodman wants to "try to and do something really cool for a lot of people, play some games and try to get the Korean kids to play." Basketball, you see, is cooler than pushing back against humanitarian abuse. And Rodman is cool. Rodman goes on to indicate that he'll totally talk about Kim's uncle, or Bae's imprisonment, if "he wants to talk about it:"
"If it doesn't happen I just can't bring it up because I don't (want) him to think that I'm over here trying to be an ambassador and trying to use him as being his friend and all of a sudden I'm talking about politics. That's not going to be that way."
Days after North Korea announced Jang's execution, the Irish betting company sponsoring Rodman's latest trip to the country announced that the journey was still on, as the company believes its "it’s safe for foreigners to travel to North Korea." Unless you're an 85-year-old American veteran of the Korean War. Then you get arrested and are forced to read a prepared statement "confessing" to various crimes before being released.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.