Dennis Rodman arrives in Pyongyang with ex-NBA delegation

Rodman and entourage of former NBA stars touch down in Pyongyang for basketball diplomacy
January 6th, 2014

Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday to take part in a planned exhibition match between a North Korean team and a delegation of retired NBA players.

The delegation arrived from Beijing on Air Koryo flight JS152 at 4PM Korean time and will take part in a basketball game against North Korea’s national team on Wednesday – to celebrate Kim Jong Un’s 31st birthday.

“It’s about trying to connect two countries together in the world, to let people know that, do you know what? Not every country in the world is that bad, especially North Korea,” Rodman told The Associated Press prior to departure.

Michael Spavor, a consultant that organizes cultural and business exchanges in North Korea, posted photographs on his Twitter account of the team’s arrival in Pyongyang.

Responding to a Sky News journalist who said that he had a responsibility to raise the issue of human rights abuses during his trip, Rodman said that it was not his job.

“The only thing I am doing right now, I am only doing one thing: this game is for his birthday. It’s for his birthday.

“And I hope that if this opens doors and we can actually talk about certain things, then we can do certain things but I am not going to sit there and go in and say “hey guy, you’re doing the wrong thing,” Rodman added.

Rodman, who toasted Kim Jong Un’s recently executed uncle Jang Song Thaek during a trip to North Korea in Spring 2013, has been undeterred by growing criticism over the timing of his latest basketball diplomacy trip to North Korea.

Growing criticism led Irish betting giant Paddy Power to pull out of sponsoring the trip on Christmas eve, citing “changed circumstances”.

“We have been reviewing the partnership on an ongoing basis, and with the benefit of hindsight, we probably got this one wrong,” company spokesman Paddy Power (and son of Paddy Power’s founder, Paddy Power) tells NK News.

But despite distancing themselves from the event, NK News has learnt that Paddy Power will still pay for the basketball diplomacy to take place due to “contractual obligations” with Rodman’s camp.

The ex-NBA delegation was announced on Saturday and includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. They are joined by fellow basketball players Doug Christie, Charles D. Smith, and Craig Hodges.

The delegation is staying at the international class Koryo Hotel in downtown Pyongyang.

British tour company Koryo Tours offered the chance for twelve tourists to attend the exhibition match for a price of around $8500 per person. A percentage of the fee will go towards funding theDeafKidsHouse in Pyongyang – a project to help deaf children in North Korea, Koryo Tours said.

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About the Author

Chad O'Carroll

Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.

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