“I’m just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun,” retired US basketball star Dennis Rodman said ahead of his third trip to North Korea.
This was in reference to urging by human rights activists that Rodman should talk to leader Kim Jong-un about abuses in North Korea.
His latest visit follows a rare public purging of the secretive country’s elite. Kim’s powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, was executed last week.
“People have been saying these things here and there. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not a politician. I’m not an ambassador,” Rodman told the Reuters news agency at his hotel in Beijing before he left for the airport.
“I’m just going over there to try and do something really cool for a lot of people, play some games and try to get the Korean kids to play.”
“Everything else I have nothing to do with. If it happens that he wants to talk about it then great. If it doesn’t happen I just can’t bring it up because I don’t (want) him to think that I’m over here trying to be an ambassador and trying to use him as being his friend and all of a sudden I’m talking about politics. That’s not going to be that way,” Rodman added.
The athlete is expected to provide North Korea’s national basketball team with four days of training during the trip.
He has visited Pyongyang twice before, spending time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship.
North Korean life has been governed strictly for decades – in all areas, including access to housing, education, expression, jobs and food.
Border guards shoot defectors who risk crossing the hermetic border of the police state, and the rare few who manage to escape but are caught in China are imprisoned and liable for execution.