BEIJING (Reuters) - Retired U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman returned on Monday from a four-day trip to isolated North Korea saying he was not concerned that he had not met leader Kim Jong Un and he would “see him again”.
This was Rodman’s third trip to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. Previously, he spent time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship.
An entourage of burly men pushed their way through a scrum of journalists waiting for Rodman at Beijing airport. Rodman answered only a few of the questions thrown at him on the run.
Asked whether he was disappointed not to see Kim this time around, Rodman said: “Nope, I don’t worry about it, I will see him again”.
Rodman said before leaving he was going to provide North Korea’s national basketball team with four days of training during the trip.
“It was awesome, man,” he said of the training he conducted.
Rodman intends to return to Pyongyang in January with a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars to hold basketball games on Kim’s birthday.
“We’re going to be playing in two weeks,” he said.
Rodman’s latest visit follows the rare public purge of Kim’s powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed this month.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events as a “reign of terror”. The purging of Jang, considered the second most powerful man in the North, indicated factionalism within the secretive government. (ID:nL2N0H51VH)
Ahead of the trip, Seoul-based North Korean human rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk said in an open letter in the Washington Post that Rodman should talk to Kim about human rights abuses in North Korea.
Rodman told Reuters last week it was not his place to talk about such issues.
Rodman’s first visit in February came shortly after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. resolutions. Rodman said upon his return from that trip that Kim wanted to receive a call from President Barack Obama, an avid basketball fan.
The White House has said the United States has direct channels of communication with North Korea and declined to directly respond to Rodman’s message that Kim hoped to hear from Obama after his previous visit.
Reporting by Adam Rose; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Robert Birsel