Rodman tells Kim Jong Un he has 'friend for life'
SEOUL - The Associated Press
This photo taken on February 28, 2013 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 1, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front L) and former NBA star Dennis Rodman (front R) speaking at a basketball game in Pyongyang. AFP PhotoEx-NBA star Dennis Rodman hung out Thursday with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on the third day of his improbable journey with VICE to Pyongyang, watching the Harlem Globetrotters with the leader and later dining on sushi and drinking with him at his palace.
“You have a friend for life,” Rodman told Kim before a crowd of thousands at a gymnasium where they sat side by side, chatting as they watched players from North Korea and the U.S. play, Alex Detrick, a spokesman for the New York-based VICE media company, told The Associated Press.
Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday with three members of the professional Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy and a production crew to shoot an episode on North Korea for a new weekly HBO series.
Kim, a diehard basketball fan, told the former Chicago Bulls star he hoped the visit would break the ice between the United States and North Korea, VICE founder Shane Smith said.
Dressed in a blue Mao suit, Kim laughed and slapped his hands on the table before him during the game as he sat nearly knee to knee with Rodman. Rodman, the man who once turned up in a wedding dress to promote his autobiography, wore a dark suit and dark sunglasses, but still had on his nose rings and other piercings. A can of Coca-Cola sat on the table before him in photos shared with AP by VICE.
Chat in English
Kim and Rodman chatted in English, but Kim primarily spoke in Korean through a translator, Smith said after speaking to the VICE crew in Pyongyang. “They bonded during the game,” Smith said by telephone from New York after speaking to the crew. “They were both enjoying the crazy shots, and the Harlem Globetrotters were putting on quite a show.”
The surprise visit by the flamboyant Hall of Famer known as “The Worm” makes him an unlikely ambassador at a time when North Koreans are girding for battle with the U.S. Just last week, Kim guided frontline troops in military exercises.
North Korea and the U.S. fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953. The foes never signed a peace treaty, and do not have diplomatic relations. Thursday’s game ended in a 110-110 draw, with two Americans playing on each team alongside North Koreans, Detrick said. The Xinhua News Agency first reported on the game, citing witnesses who attended.
After the game, Rodman addressed Kim in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands of North Koreans, telling him, “You have a friend for life,” Detrick said. At a lavish dinner at Kim’s palace, the leader plied the group with food and drinks as the group made round after round of toasts.
“Dinner was an epic feast. Felt like about 10 courses in total,” Duffy said in an email to AP. “I’d say the winners were the smoked turkey and sushi, though we had the Pyongyang cold noodles earlier in the trip and that’s been the runaway favorite so far.”
Duffy said he invited Kim to visit the United States, a proposal met with hearty laughter from the North Korean leader. “Um ... so Kim Jong Un just got the (hash)VICE on HBO crew wasted ... no really, that happened,” VICE producer Jason Mojica wrote on Twitter.