Dennis Rodman, the unlikely new ambassador for sports diplomacy, arrives in North Korea
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Tuesday 26 February 2013
Tattooed, pierced, bleached blonde and almost two metres tall, Dennis Rodman will certainly stand out in North Korea, where the dress code is drab and the average man is up to 8cm shorter than his South Korean neighbour.
The flamboyant former NBA star is visiting the reclusive Communist state with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and a Vice film crew, to shoot a documentary for HBO.
Vice founder Shane Smith told the Associated Press they planned to engage in “basketball diplomacy” with the Koreans, by running a basketball camp for children, and by playing with some of the country's leading athletes. Globetrotter Bull Bullard said, “We're going to show them what we do… a lot of magic with the basketball, a lot of wizardry, a lot of fun and entertainment.”
The seven-day visit comes just weeks after the Pyongyang leadership defied UN bans on atomic and missile activity by conducting an underground nuclear missile test, and launching a three-stage rocket. Yet this is the second visit to the country by a high-profile American guest in as many months. Eric Schmidt, Google's Executive Chairman, made a surprise trip to Pyongyang in January. Rodman, an NBA Hall of Famer, won five championships during his career, three with the Chicago Bulls; North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is believed to be a Bulls fan.
Rodman, however, may not be quite so au fait with Korean geopolitics as his host is with basketball. Tweeting upon arrival in North Korea, he suggested he might meet South Korean popstar Psy during his visit. “Maybe I'll run into the Gangnam Style dude while I'm here,” he wrote.
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