Dennis Rodman goes to North Korea to engage in “basketball diplomacy”

"The Worm" has become an unlikely "sports ambassador" to the communist country

Topics: dennis rodman, North Korea, Basketball, peace mission, NBA, Sports,

Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman heads to North Korea today, the land of sexy leaders and a hostile communist regime. The eccentric 90s-era star will be the second high-profile person to visit the country since Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, who visited in January; the trip comes only two weeks after North Korea perform an underground nuclear test against the UN’s ban of atomic and missile activity.

But this has not deterred Rodman or his team, which include three members of the Harlem Globetrotters and a film crew from Vice, who plans to use the footage for a series on HBO in April. Vice founder Shane Smith told the AP: ”At a time when tensions between the two countries are running high, it’s important to keep lines of cultural communication open, no matter how non-traditional those channels may be.”

“It’s important to show North Koreans that America is not their enemy, and playing a game we both love is a step in the right direction,” he added.

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The AP reports that during the visit, Vice hopes that the basketball players will “engage in a little ‘basketball diplomacy’” in the country. They plan to organize a sports camp for children and play against North Korea’s top athletes in a competition they hope North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will attend.

While Vice is pegging the players as sports ambassadors, however, the U.S. state department has not had any involvement in the plans. An official told the AP that Vice has not contacted the department, and that it does not vet private travel to the country.

Though the peace mission sounds dubious, the trip will certainly make for good TV: When the AP showed a “photo of a snarling Rodman, piercings dangling from his lower lip and two large tattoos on his chest, one North Korean in Pyongyang recoiled and said: ‘He looks like a monster!’ “

Prachi Gupta
Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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