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Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is in North Korea to train help train the national team and visit leader Kim Jong Un. Rodman ...
calls the North Korean leader his 'friend.' (Dec. 19)
Tags:ap,AP News,Associated Press,dennis rodman in north korea,dennis rodman training national team,dennis rodman,Kenneth Bae,kim jong il,Son Kwang Ho
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DURATION: 1:09-----------------------------------------SHOTLIST:SOURCE - ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP CLIENTS ONLYPyongyang, North Korea - 19 December, 20131. SOUNDBITE (English) Dennis Rodman, Former NBA Player North Korea has given me the opportunity to bring these players and their families over here, so people can actually see, some of these players can actually see that this country is not as bad as people project it to be, you know, in the media, I can't control what they do with their governments, I can't control what they say or how they do things here. I'm just trying to come here, you know, as a sports figure and hope I can open doors for a lot of people in the country.//I come over to see my friend. And people always give me a hard time about me saying that, that he's my friend, and I'm very proud to say he's my friend because he hasn't done anything to put a damper or say any negative things about my country or this and that. Like I said, if I can be that type of person to open those doors for America and around the world, this is going to be that one thing. If we're going to have 12 ex-NBA ballplayers going back and saying some really nice things, really cool things about this country, then I've done my job."STORYLINEFormer NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Thursday to help train the national team and renew his friendship with the North's young leader, Kim Jong Un, a visit unaffected by the recent execution of Kim's uncle in a dramatic political purge. Rodman was met at Pyongyang's airport by Vice Sports Minister Son Kwang Ho. He made no public comments, but told a mob of reporters earlier at Beijing's airport that he expected, as on previous visits, to meet with Kim and make final arrangements for a Jan. 8 exhibition game in Pyongyang marking the leader's birthday. "I know (Kim) is waiting for me to come back. So hopefully we will have some conversation about some things that's going to help the world," Rodman said. His visit comes less than a week after North Korea announced the execution of No. 2 official Jang Song Thaek, an unprecedented fall from grace of one of the most powerful figures in the country. Jang's execution marks North Korea's most serious political upheaval in decades and has sent North Korea watchers speculating over the stability of the Kim dynasty. However, Rodman's visit _ should it proceed uneventfully _ could be a sign that Kim is firmly in charge and unconcerned with any potential challenges to his rule. Asked about the execution, Rodman said that had nothing to do with his visit. He said he wasn't worried about his personal safety in the North, despite the recent detentions of two Americans there, one of whom, Kenneth Bae, has been held for more than two years. Rodman and Kim have struck up an unlikely friendship since the Hall of Famer traveled to the secretive Communist state for the first time in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television. He remains the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power from father Kim Jong Il in 2011. Known as much for his piercings, tattoos and bad behavior as he was for basketball, Rodman has mostly avoided politics in his dealings with the North. He's mainly focused on using basketball as a means of boosting understanding and communication and studiously avoided commenting on the North's human rights record, regarded as one of the world's worst by activists, defectors and the U.S. State Department. Defectors have repeatedly testified about the government's alleged use of indiscriminate killings, rapes, beatings and prison camps holding as many as 120,000 people deemed opponents of Kim, the third generation of his family to rule. Rodman said he planned to return to North Korea in two weeks with a roster of 12 American basketball players, but offered no names. "I hope this game brings a lot of countries together, because as I said, sports it is so important to people around the world," Rodman said. "So I hope this is going to engage American people, especially (President Barack) Obama, to just to try to talk to them."