Source: Lynn Zinser / The New York Times
Photographs of the former N.B.A. star Dennis Rodman laughing while watching a basketball exhibition in Pyongyang with the North Korea leader Kim Jong-un may be some of the strangest sights in the history of accidental American diplomacy.
Not only did Kim attend the game and watch alongside Rodman, but he also invited Rodman, three Harlem Globetrotters and the Vice Media crew filming the trip for a documentary to his palace for a party, said Shane Smith, the founder of Vice Media, who dreamed up and organized this trip. The group landed in Pyongyang on Monday with approval from North Korean authorities to conduct basketball exhibitions and film the documentary, but it was not promised that Kim would meet with them.
“Apparently, he had a blast at the game,” Smith said, after speaking by phone with Ryan Duffy, a Vice Media correspondent who is on the trip. “So he invited them back to his home for a party and they had a grand old time. Speeches were made — Dennis made a very nice one — and they were met with rounds of applause.”
The scene was particularly bizarre because of the tense relations between the United States and North Korea, which has made that relationship even more difficult with a recent nuclear test. North Korea is considered one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world and is largely closed to Americans wanting to travel there. Recently, Google’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, traveled there in January to help persuade the leadership to allow Internet access for its people, but he did not report meeting with Kim.
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