BEIJING (Reuters) – Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman emerged from four days in North Korea on Friday, calling the leader of the reclusive country “an awesome kid”.
Rodman, known for his tattoos, body piercings and flamboyance, was in North Korea to film a sports documentary, and watched a basketball game alongside the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
Kim “is like his grandfather and his father, who are great leaders, he is an awesome kid, very honest and loves his wife so much”, Rodman told the Chinese government news agency Xinhua before leaving the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, on Friday.
Kim, 30, is the grandson of Kim Il-sung, who founded North Korea, and the son of Kim Jong-il. Both ruled the country with an iron fist.
Kim has maintained his father’s drive to secure nuclear arms for his impoverished country, with North Korea last month conducting its third nuclear test, drawing the condemnation of world powers and the United Nations.
At Thursday’s basketball game, Rodman and Kim laughed and conversed in English, and later had an “amicable” dinner, Xinhua quoted the former Chicago Bulls player as saying. Kim attended secondary school in Switzerland, but his language abilities remain a mystery.
North Korea routinely denounces U.S. “hostility” and no peace treaty was signed after a truce ended the 1950-53 Korean War. But Xinhua said Kim told Rodman over dinner that he hoped further sports exchanges would promote “mutual understanding between peoples of the two countries”.
Asked how his visit might help, Rodman told the agency: “About the relationship, no one man can do anything. His country and his people love him. I love him, he is an awesome guy.”
Before meeting Kim, Rodman appeared to have mixed up the two Koreas, suggesting he might meet South Korean rapper Psy during his trip to the North.
Rodman came to North Korea to shoot footage for a show to air on the U.S. television network HBO, a producer travelling with the group said.
Arriving at Beijing airport, Rodman brushed past reporters without speaking.