Dennis Rodman is in North Korea with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters on a goodwill mission. CNN confirmed the group is at Pyongyang, the capital, with VICE media company for an HBO TV program.
UPDATE: Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 12:55 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
In a media press release sent to CNN, Dennis Rodman's agent, Darren Prince, stated:
'When I discussed with Dennis the invitation to go to North Korea and meet with Kim Jong and the Korean National basketball team as part of a documentary for HBO, he knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity-- to have a fun shoot around playing basketball. It would also give him the chance to speak directly to Kim Jong. To tell him that the only way to go is--- peace not war.'
VICE Founder Shane Smith, who will also be hosting the HBO series set to air on April 5, included:
'Is sending the Harlem Globetrotters and Dennis Rodman to the DPRK strange? In a word, yes. But finding common ground on the basketball court is a beautiful thing. These channels of cultural communication might appear untraditional, and perhaps they are, but we think it's important just to keep the lines open. And if Washington isn't going to send their Generals then we'll send our Globetrotters.'
---End of update---
UPDATE: Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 9:20 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
Dennis Rodman confirmed and discussed the venture on Twitter.
It's true, I'm in North Korea.Looking forward to sitting down with Kim Jung Un.I love the people of North Korea. #WORMinNorthKorea— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) February 26, 2013
They love basketball here. Honored to represent The United States of America. #WORMinNorthKorea— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) February 26, 2013
I'm not a politician. Kim Jung Un & North Korean people are basketball fans. I love everyone. Period. End of story. #WORMinNorthKorea— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) February 26, 2013
---End of update---
Reuters' Ken Wills and Robert Birsel state the intentions of the company and the group of travelers as they head into North Korea:
VICE, which has previously worked in North Korea, said the week-long trip would include running a basketball camp for North Korean children and engaging in community-based games.
Rodman, a 2011 inductee to the Basketball Hall of Fame, is well known for his eccentric personality and his notable tattoos, piercings and overall strange behavior. So, it's an interesting choice to say the least.
Basketball is definitely growing globally, and this is a good opportunity to connect with a country that sees the world so differently from the United States. As basketball develops globally, it can be a good tool for the United States to connect with other people in the world.
Tensions certainly exist between North Korea and the United States. Earlier this month, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, much to the dismay of the global community. This trip could offer a chance to ease some of those tensions, or at the very least offer some insight into the secretive country.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been a basketball fan for much of his life, according to Wills and Birsel.
Thirty-year-old North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has launched two long-range rockets and carried out a nuclear weapons test during just over a year in power, is reported to be an avid NBA fan and had pictures taken with players from the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers during his school days in Switzerland.
Maybe Kim Jong-un will get a chance to take a picture with Rodman and add that to his collection.
While the thought of Rodman representing Americans in this context is somewhat frightening, he does have some experience being a basketball player in foreign lands.
After finishing his NBA career, Rodman went on to play professionally for teams in Mexico, Finland and the United Kingdom.