Former NBA player Dennis Rodman plans to head to North Korea next week to train the country’s basketball team, an excursion unchanged by the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, the Associated Press reports.
“Yes, I’m going to North Korea to train the basketball team,” he told the AP by phone. “I’m going to bring American players over there. Yes, I am. I’m going to be the most famous person in the world when you see American people holding hands and hoping the doors can be opened. If they can. If they can. If they can. I’m going. I’m going back for his birthday. Special.”
The execution of Jang Song Thaek, announced early Friday in Pyongyang, represented a remarkable fall from grace for one of the most powerful officials in the country, the AP says. He was the No. 2 official—behind only Kim—in the insular nation, and his death marked one of the biggest political scandals in the nation in decades, the site notes.
Rodman has described Kim as a close friend and had long-scheduled the trip that begins Monday to train the national team. He also has organized an exhibition game in January in Pyongyang to celebrate Kim’s birthday. He says former professional basketball players are slated to play, but declined to disclose their names.
Rodman has come under heavy criticism for failing to address the country’s human rights record, which has been described as abysmal by the U.S. State Department, North Korean defectors and activists.
Read more at the Associated Press.