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(2nd LD) Rodman spotted at N. Korea's lavish ski resort: witness

2014/01/15 16:36

BEIJING, Jan. 15 (Yonhap) -- Former NBA star Dennis Rodman was spotted at a recently built luxury ski resort in North Korea earlier this week before returning from a controversial trip to the country, a witness said in an Internet blog posting seen on Wednesday.

An official at Beijing-based tour agency Koryo Tours, which specializes in trips to North Korea, was at the Masik Pass ski resort for two days from Sunday during which he said he ran into Rodman at the sprawling alpine landscape.

"On my arrival at Masik on Jan 12th who was I to immediately run into but Dennis Rodman!" Simon Cockerell, co-founder of Koryo Tours, wrote in the posting.

Rodman led a team of former NBA players for a goodwill game with a North Korean selection meant to celebrate the birthday of the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, who is believed to have turned 31 on Jan. 8. After the game, all but Rodman had earlier returned to Beijing on their way home.

Cockerell said Koryo Tours organized custom tours for a number of Americans and other foreigners that included watching the basketball game in Pyongyang, the capital.

"Koryo Tours was able to offer exclusive access to the event to our tourists but it was interesting to run unto the man himself once again in a completely different part of the country," he said, adding that Rodman left shortly after he had arrived at the ski resort on the North's east coast.

The Masik ski resort, opened earlier this month, is one of the pet projects of the North's leader who reportedly enjoyed skiing while staying in Switzerland in the early 1990s to go to school there.

Returning from North Korea to Beijing on Monday, Rodman told a swarm of journalists that, "It's amazing that I had the opportunity just to go to North Korea and for the Marshal (Kim Jong-un) just to give me an opportunity just to be in his presence and in his city."

   The game in Pyongyang drew criticism in the United States when Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to Kim.

Rodman, who has described Kim as his "friend for life," said he was sorry for not using his personal friendship with Kim to seek the release of the detained American, Kenneth Bae.

Rodman said he would again visit North Korea next month, but did not give details.