Retired NBA player Dennis Rodman, widely known as "The Worm," is back from his trip to North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team after spending two days with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un. The NBA Hall of Famer briefed ABC's George Stephanopoulos on his visit to the communist country on This Week and publicly declared his love for the North Korean dictator.
"I love Un. I love him. The guy is awesome. It was so easy how they were so honest," said Rodman.
Rodman went on to describe the notoriously oppressive ruler as a "humble" man. "One thing I noticed about him, he’s very humble. He’s very humble as a man, he’s very strong as a man. But guess what, he doesn’t want war."
VICE Media producers told The Associated Press that Rodman would travel to the communist state with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and a VICE magazine correspondent for an upcoming HBO series that will premiere next month. After dining on a 10-course meal, watching basketball, ice skating and visiting an aquarium with the North Korean Supreme Leader, Rodman has spent more time with Kim Jong-un than any other American, including diplomats, politicians and intelligence services.
Former Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Ganyard told ABC News, "There is nobody at the CIA who could tell you more personally about Kim Jong-un than Dennis Rodman, and that in itself is scary."
Assuming the role of ambassador, Rodman delivered a message from Kim to President Obama. "He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him. He said, 'If you can, Dennis, I don't want to do war. I don't want to do war.' He said that to me." Rodman suggested one way to connect with the estranged dictator. "[Kim] loves basketball. And I said the same thing. I said, 'Obama loves basketball.' Let's start there."
On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney responded to whether the president would call Kim Jong-un, who has declared America "the sworn enemy of the Korean people." "The United States has direct channels of communications with the DPRK. And instead of spending money on celebrity sporting events to entertain the elites of that country, the North Korean regime should focus on the well-being of its own people, who have been starved, imprisoned and denied their human rights."
Carney emphasized that "the United States has channels of communications directly with the DPRK, and those are the channels we choose to employ."
Rodman conceded that the North Korean dictator "loves power" and "loves control because of his dad and stuff like that." But Rodman still affirmed, "he just is a great guy...he is just a great guy. You just have to sit down and talk with him." After Rodman repeatedly referred to Kim as "a friend" of his, he asked Stephanopoulos at the end of the interview, "don't hate me, don't hate me" for his personal opinion of the dictator.
Before his encounter with Kim Jong Un, the basketball star tweeted:
It's true, I'm in North Korea.Looking forward to sitting down with Kim Jung Un.I love the people of North Korea. #WORMinNorthKorea— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) February 26, 2013
After he presumably found out the dictator's passion for the NBA and American basketball during the '90s, Rodman tweeted later in the day:
I'm not a politician. Kim Jung Un & North Korean people are basketball fans. I love everyone. Period. End of story. #WORMinNorthKorea— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) February 26, 2013
When asked about his knowledge of the regime's dismal human rights record or the country's recent nuclear tests, Rodman said, "I don't condone what he does, but as far as a person to person, he's my friend." ABC's George Stephanopoulos then handed the NBA star a copy of the Human Rights Watch report on North Korea which states that Kim Jong-un presides over 200,000 prisoners in labor camps, 3.5 million people who have died due to starvation with 2.8 million or almost 10% of the North Korean population currently malnourished and underfed, and a closed communist state that restricts free media, political opposition, and religious freedom.
At the end of the interview, Rodman promised to return to North Korea for a closer look at the conditions of the country. Rodman pledged, "I'm going to go back one day and find out more of what's really going on. Find out more."