Rodman back to N.Korea despite political tension
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[December 17, 2013]
By James Pearson
SEOUL (Reuters) — Retired basketball star
Dennis Rodman will return to North Korea for a third time on Thursday,
despite political tension surrounding the execution of leader Kim Jong
Un's uncle, trip organizers said.
"It's certainly safe, even when there is a bit of disruption like
there is now — a bit of trouble or chaos — there's even more need
for cultural or sporting exchanges," said Rory Scott, a spokesman
for Irish bookmakers Paddy Power, which has arranged the trip.
Rodman has visited Pyongyang on two other occasions, during which he
spent time dining as a guest of Kim Jong Un, with whom he says he
has a genuine friendship.
In Washington, a State Department official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, sought to distance the U.S. government from Rodman's
"We have not been contacted by Mr. Rodman about his trip to North
Korea," said the official. "The State Department does not vet U.S.
citizens' private travel to the DPRK."
In a rare admission of factionalism within the North Korean
government, Jang Song Thaek was purged and then executed last week — a period South Korean President Park Geun-hye described as a "reign
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Rodman is expected to provide North Korea's national basketball team
with four days of training. He also intends to return to Pyongyang
in January with a team of fellow former National Basketball
Association stars to hold basketball games on Kim Jong Un's
"Dennis is going to spend a couple of days training the North Korean
team to get them shipshape for the January match," Scott said.
(Editing by Angus MacSwan and Ken Wills)
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