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What Is Dennis Rodman Doing in North Korea, Anyway?

( [email protected] ) Sep 11, 2013 11:33 AM EDT
The trip didn't result in the release of imprisoned American missionary Kenneth Bae.
Expectations had been high that Rodman, on his second trip to North Korea this year, would parlay his friendship with the 30-year-old dictator into the release of the jailed U.S. missionary. According to The LA Times.
Dennis Rodman speaks at a news conference in New York about his recent trip to North Korea. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Dennis Rodman recently returned from North Korea, some six months after his maiden trip to the isolated and authoritarian regime, with promises of a major announcement to come.

The big news that Rodman broke in a press conference in New York? There's a third trip to Pyongyang in his future -- and he's apparently got his sights set on a longer-term, more significant basketball-based relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to Yahoo Sports.

Days after returning from his second trip to visit Kim Jong Un -- in which he held the leader's newborn baby -- Rodman announced plans to stage two exhibition games there in January.

Touting his friendship with Kim Jong Un and criticizing President Barack Obama for not talking to him, Rodman says Monday he will go back to North Korea in December to help select local players for the game, according to the Associated Press. He hopes to have stars such as former Chicago teammate Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone play.

Rodman, holding a cigar and wearing the shirt of a vodka company and a hat of a betting one that is funding the event, says Kim Jong Un has asked him to train his players to compete in the 2016 Olympics and offered to allow the Hall of Famer to write a book about him, according to the Associated Press.

So, the trip didn't result in the release of imprisoned American missionary Kenneth Bae.

Expectations had been high that Rodman, on his second trip to North Korea this year, would parlay his friendship with the 30-year-old dictator into the release of the jailed U.S. missionary. According to The LA Times.

"That's not my job to ask about Kenneth Bae. Ask Obama about that. Ask Hillary Clinton," as Reuters quoted him.

Rodman, at times using expletives, also reaffirmed his friendship with Kim.

"He is my friend for life. I don't care what you guys think about him," said Rodman, who was chomping an unlit cigar and wearing sunglasses.

Bae, a 44-year-old tour guide and evangelist, was arrested upon entering the North Korean city of Rason in November. He was tried for "hostile acts against the state" and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, according to The LA Times.

Rodman, an NBA Hall of Famer who starred for the Chicago Bulls, Kim's favorite team, flew Tuesday from Beijing to Pyongyang, his second trip to see the eccentric North Korean leader, whom he has referred to as a "friend" and "an awesome kid."

"I'm not a joke," Rodman said at a press conference, while sitting in front of a bust of his own head and next to the owner of an Irish bookmaking site, notes Yahoo Sports. "Take me seriously."

No other avenue appears to be open for seeking freedom for Bae.

Robert King, the U.S. State Department special envoy for North Korean rights issues, had been expected to visit Pyongyang last week. The North Korean Foreign Ministry, however, retracted King's invitation, saying the diplomatic atmosphere had been soured by recent U.S. air maneuvers over South Korea.