Photo by Alexander F. Yuan/AP
Eccentric former basketball star Dennis Rodman says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man and uncle, who was reportedly executed, is still alive.
In an interview with fashion and culture magazine DuJour, Rodman said that Kim didn’t execute his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and that he even met him during his latest trip to the communist country in January. North Korea’s state-run media confirmed last December that Jang was executed for his “anti-state acts.”
“You could say anything here about North Korea and people would believe it,” Rodman said. “The last time I went there, when they said they killed his girlfriend, they killed his uncle, they just fed him to the dogs … They were standing right behind me.”
When asked to clarify, Rodman repeated, “He was standing right there.”
The 52-year-old developed a friendship with Kim when he first visited Pyongyang last year. He has made several trips to the secretive state since and even took a group of retired NBA players there. They hosted an exhibition game earlier this year for Kim’s birthday. Rodman even sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim.
Kim reportedly became an avid fan of basketball and the Chicago Bulls as he grew up watching Rodman win three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s when he was studying abroad in Switzerland.
Rodman added that the North Korean leader, whom he calls his “lifelong friend,” is eager to speak to U.S. President Barack Obama and that he “loves Americans.”
“He really, really wants to talk to Obama. He can’t say it enough,” Rodman said. “He’s saying that he doesn’t want to bomb anybody. He said, ‘I don’t want to kill Americans.’ He loves Americans.”
This isn’t the first time Rodman stirred controversy with an unexpected comment about North Korea. In January, he told CNN that North Korea shouldn’t be blamed for detaining Kenneth Bae, a Korean American man who has been imprisoned in the country for over a year.