Professional athletes, often considered celebrities in their own right, have been known to rub shoulders at swanky events with some of the world’s rich and famous. When Dennis Rodman, the former NBA champion, flew to North Korea for the second time this year, he spent his time partying with one of the world’s most infamous dictators: Kim Jong Un.
Rodman, 52, a notoriously flamboyant basketball player, has called the leader of the world’s most secretive nation, “a good friend” in the past, and even told the press “I love him,” after his first visit earlier this year. Now, it seems, their friendship has only continued to flourish. According to an interview with the Sun, Rodman described his second visit to see Kim in early September -- where he spent time on Kim’s private island -- as a “seven-star party.”
“It’s like going to Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there,” Rodman said in the interview. “He likes people to be happy around him.” It’s not a surprise that those in Kim’s most inner-circle would also experience the royal treatment. “He’s got 50 to 60 [people] around him all the time -- just normal people, drinking cocktails and laughing the whole time.”
“If you drink a bottle of tequila, it’s the best tequila,” Rodman said of the luxury accommodations. “Everything you want, he has the best.”
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Rodman’s visits to North Korea were to help promote a basketball diplomacy initiative in the country. During his first trip in April, which was sponsored by HBO program VICE, Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters basketball club went to the isolated nation to establish basketball roots in the country. Kim, who is reportedly a huge NBA fan since his teen years, welcomed the delegation to several local exhibition games in the capital Pyongyang.
This time around, Rodman’s trip had less to do with basketball and more with simply having fun with Kim. Rodman noted, for example, that he spent some time on Kim’s 200-foot luxury yacht, which he described as a “cross between a ferry and Disney boat.”
Juxtaposed next to alleged reports of famine, nuclear weapons development and chemical weapons-testing on prisoners, Kim’s taste and budget for luxurious goods may be a surprise. For example, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported in October that North Korea is one of 34 nations that still require external aid in order to feed its people. But North Korea has been funneling money into luxury leisure facilities recently. The country recently released photos of the capital’s new water park, with both indoor and outdoor slides and facilities. At the same time, the country continues to plan the opening of its first ski resort, which is being built northeast of the capital.