Dennis Rodman Is Back in North Korea

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 3 2013 11:21 AM

Dennis Rodman Is Back in North Korea to Start a Basketball League "or Something"

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Former US NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman is surrounded by members of the media as he makes his way through Beijing's international airport on September 3, 2013

Photo by Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea, where the former NBA star says he plans to hang out with his FFL, Kim Jong-un, and "start a basketball league ... or something like that."

Speaking in Beijing before departing for Pyongyang (and while wearing a T-shirt with a picture of his own face on it), Rodman told reporters that the second leg of what he continues to brand as his "basketball diplomacy tour" has nothing to do with seeking the release of an American missionary currently being held in a North Korean prison. "I'm not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae," Rodman told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I'm just trying to go over there to meet my friend Kim, the Marshal."

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After Bae was sentenced to 15 years in a "special prison" in May, Rodman managed to worm his way back into the headlines when he called on Kim—over Twitter, of course—to do him a "solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose." That request, as expected, went unanswered.

While Rodman may not be actively trying to free Bae during his current trip, he suggested last week that he might as well ask Kim—or "Kim," as Rodman calls him—if he got the chance. "If I actually got him loose—and I'm just saying this out the blue—I'd be the most powerful guy in the world," Rodman told HuffPost Live.

Global observers believe that Kim is likely using Bae as bait to win some type of diplomatic concession from the United States. So far, however, Pyongyang has come up empty on that front, and Bae has likewise remained locked up. Last week, North Korea abruptly called off an official visit from a U.S. envoy seeking to bring the American home in an apparent response to a U.S.-South Korean military drill.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.