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(2nd LD) Rodman heads back to N. Korea for exhibition game on Kim's birthday

2014/01/06 16:23

BEIJING, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman departed for North Korea on Monday for an exhibition basketball game marking the birthday of leader Kim Jong-un, hoping that the game would help Pyongyang "open the doors a little bit" to the outside world.

Leading a team of ex-NBA All Stars for the Wednesday match, which include Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker, the flamboyant Rodman said he would meet with Kim and wants to display a "good show" for the North's young leader.

The heavily tattooed Rodman, 52, remains the highest-profile American to meet Kim, who is believed to be around 30, since the leader took power in late 2011 following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

Asked about North Korea's dismal human rights situation, Rodman replied, "That's not my job. That's not my job."

   "I'm just an athlete, I'm just an individual who wants to go over there and play something for the world. That's it," Rodman said.

"This game is for his birthday. I hope that this game will open the doors, and we can access talks about certain things," Rodman said.

Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman speaks to journalists as he arrives at the Beijing Capital International Airport before departing for Pyongyang on Jan. 6. (Yonhap)

Rodman had met Kim Jong-un during his previous two visits but failed to meet him during his third visit in December.

The December trip came amid worries over potential political instability in North Korea following the stunning execution of Kim's once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek.

South Korea and the United States have kept a close watch on North Korea for possible provocations as Jang's dramatic downfall marked the most significant political upheaval since Kim inherited power two years ago.

Rodman, who has described Kim as a "friend for life," said, "This time you will see me with him the whole time."

   "He is my friend," Rodman said of Kim. "I love him."

   Rodman's team is scheduled to compete in the exhibition game against a team of North Korean basketball players.

kdh@yna.co.kr

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