Move over, Felix and Oscar. There’s a new odd couple on the scene.
Wait for it–it’s former NBA star Dennis Rodman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. On Monday, Rodman, three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, and a production crew from VICE Media touched down in Pyongyang. The group planned to film segments for an HBO series.
Vice Media chairman Shane Smith spoke with The New York Times and explained that there were “no guarantees” that the North Korean leader would cross paths with the group.
But Rodman wound up courtside with Kim Jong-un at a basketball exhibition game in Pyongyang. From the looks of things, and reports from those in attendance, the pair managed to hit it off. Rodman apparently gave a speech in the arena, at which point he informed Kim Jong-un, “you have a friend for life.”
The evening did not end there. Rodman and the rest of his crew were invited to dinner at Kim Jong-un’s palace following the game. Vice correspondent Ryan Duffy communicated via email to the Associated Press, saying “Dinner was an epic feast. Felt like about 10 courses in total.”
Setting aside his newly formed friendship with the North Korean dictator, there’s a chance Rodman failed to brush up on Korean history prior to the trip. A mid-trip tweet from Rodman reads, “maybe I’ll run into Gangnam style dude while I’m here.”
Psy, or “Gangnam Style dude” as Rodman calls him, happens to hail from South Korea. Given the tense relationship between North Korea and the rapper’s home country, it comes as no surprise that Psy was far less than amused, tweeting back, “I’m from South man!!!”
Kim Jong-un may have been game to facilitate a “sports exchange” between his country and the United States, but the State Department sees no diplomatic advantage to this one.
“Clearly you’ve got the regime spending money to wine and dine foreign visitors, when they should be feeding their own people,” said State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
Further proof of Rodman’s potentially misguided opinion on North Korea came at the conclusion of his North Korean excursion. According to the Associated Press, Rodman said that both Kim Jong-un and his predecessor were “great leaders” and expressed his amazement at the honesty of the North Korean people. Rodman’s final description of Kim Jong-un: “awesome.”