By James Pearson
SEOUL (Reuters) – Retired basketball star Dennis Rodman will return to North Korea for a third time on Thursday despite political tension surrounding the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, trip organizers said.
“It’s certainly safe, even when there is a bit of disruption like there is now — a bit of trouble or chaos — there’s even more need for cultural or sporting exchanges,” said Rory Scott, a spokesman for Irish bookmakers Paddy Power, which has arranged the trip.
Rodman has visited Pyongyang on two other occasions, during which he spent time dining as a guest of Kim Jong Un, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship.
In a rare admission of factionalism within the North Korean government, Jang Song Thaek was purged and then executed last week – a period South Korean President Park Geun-hye described as a “reign of terror”.
Rodman is expected to provide North Korea’s national basketball team with four days of training. He also intends to return to Pyongyang in January with a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars to hold basketball games on Kim Jong Un’s birthday.
“This being is orchestrated under the guise of sport,” Scott said. “Dennis is going to spend a couple of days training the North Korean team to get them ship shape for the January match.”
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)