Yes, Dennis Rodman is in Pyongyang with the Harlem Globetrotters

UPDATE 30 (2013-9-7): Dennis Rodman made his second visit to the DPRK in September 2013.

UPDATE 29 (2013-6-24): Uri Tours has uploaded three videos of the Globetrotters in Pyongyang to Youtube. Here they are: Video 1, Video 2, video 3.

UPDATE 28 (2013-5-31): NK News reports on Dennis Rodman’s autograph in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace guest book:

“This has been a second coming of life. Thank you, thank you.”

UPDATE 27 (2013-5-24): Uri Tours has uploaded the DPRK video taken from the DPRK that shows the lead up to the game. Apparently VICE is trying to keep it off the internet.

UPDATE 26 (2013-3-29): New Focus claims to have some “behind the scenes” information on the Rodman trip.

UPDATE 25 (2013-3-5): It appears Dennis Rodman was escorted from a New York hotel from rambling on about how great Kim Jong-un is. According to the New York Post:

Dennis Rodman, just back from visiting Kim Jong Un, was escorted out of the Time Hotel in Midtown on Sunday after spending hours at the restaurant bar loudly telling anyone who would listen what a great guy the North Korean dictator is.

“He was at the bar at Serafina for three hours,” says a spy. “He kept saying what a nice guy Kim is, and how Kim just wants to talk to President Obama about basketball. He was waving around a signed copy of the dictator’s huge manifesto, telling everyone they should read it.”

Added the witness, “Dennis was making a total jerk of himself. He wouldn’t leave, and he wouldn’t let anyone talk to him about shutting up, or what an oppressive country North Korea is. Eventually he had to leave the bar because the bartender was starting to get [bleep]ed-off.”

UPDATE 24 (2013-3-5): The Harlem Globetrotters were featured on the North Korean evening news again (March 4th).  This time they visited the Grand People’s Study House and the Golden Lane Bowling Alley:

Here is coverage in KCNA:

Harlem Globetrotters Players Tour Various Places

Pyongyang, March 5 (KCNA) — American basketball players of Harlem Globetrotters and their party visited the International Friendship Exhibition House.

The guests paid tribute to the wax replica of President Kim Il Sung.

They looked round the gifts Kim Il Sung, leader Kim Jong Il and the dear respected Kim Jong Un received from party, state and government heads and personages of many countries.

At the end of the visit Jeffrey Raymond Munn made an entry in the visitor’s book.

He wrote that the exhibition house is the greatest collective of national treasures in the world and he was pleased to see them, excellent wealth for the Korean people.

The guests also toured the E-library and Indoor Swimming Pool of Kim Il Sung University, Grand People’s Study House, Pyongyang Gold Lane and other places.

Earlier, basketball players of Harlem Globetrotters conducted a joint training with players of the Hwaebul basketball team of Korean University of Physical Education.

The guests flew back home Tuesday.

UPDATE 23 (2013-3-4): The White House has dismissed the Rodman trip as “a ‘celebrity sporting event’ for an oppressive regime”. Read more here.

UPDATE 22 (2013-3-4): The North Korean evening (March 3) news featured the Harlem Globetrotters visiting the new electronic library and indoor swimming pool of  Kim Il-Sung University:

UPDATE 21 (2013-3-3): Here is an Instagram image from Pyongyang of the Harlem Globetrotters entertaining some children in Pyongyang.

UPDATE 20 (2013-3-3): Dennis Rodman gave an interview to ABC News. You can see it here. Dennis Rodman says he is going back. Shane Smith is banned from the DPRK, but was still able to pull this off…

UPDATE 19 (2013-3-2): KCTV footage shows the Globetrotters visiting the International Friendship Exhibition in Myohyangsan.

UPDATE 18 (2013-3-1): Here is KCNA footage of Dennis Rodman leaving the DPRK:

Here is what KCNA had to say:

Pyongyang, March 1 (KCNA) — Ex-player of the NBA of the U.S. Dennis Rodman left here Friday. Seeing him off at the airport were Son Kwang Ho, vice-chairman of the DPRK Olympic Committee, and officials concerned.

The Harlem Globetrotters remain in the DPRK.

UPDATE 17 (2013-3-1): When Dennis Rodman left the DPRK, he complemented the Paektu blood line noting Kim Jong-un is an “awesome guy” and his father and grandfather were “great leaders”.  According to the Associated Press:

At Pyongyang’s Sunan airport on his way to Beijing, Rodman said it was “amazing” that the North Koreans were “so honest.” He added that Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder, “were great leaders.”

“He’s proud, his country likes him – not like him, love him, love him,” Rodman said of Kim Jong Un. “Guess what, I love him. The guy’s really awesome.”

At Beijing’s airport, Rodman pushed past waiting journalists without saying anything.

Rodman’s agent, Darren Prince, sent a text message to The Associated Press saying Rodman will be in New York on Sunday “to do some major press interviews and talk about his trip in North Korea as well as discussing what’s accurate and inaccurate from the press the past few days.”

UPDATE 16 (2013-3-1): Rodong Sinmun reports on Rodman and Harlem Globetrotters visit to  the Rungra Dolphinarium. Here is coverage in KCNA:

U.S. Ex-NBA Star Tours Pyongyang

Pyongyang, March 1 (KCNA) — Dennis Rodman, ex-player of the NBA of the U.S., and his party toured the Rungna Dolphinarium on Friday.

The guests expressed deep impressions as they were briefed on the Dolphinarium on picturesque Rungna Islet.

They spent a good time watching dolphins dancing to the tune of cheerful music, jumping in group, spinning rings, jumping into the air and shaking hands with people.

Earlier, they also toured the Tower of the Juche Idea and the Arch of Triumph.

UPDATE 15 : Here is KCTV footage of the basketball game and dinner banquet:

Reminds me of the time I saw Kim Jong-il!

UPDATE 14 (2013-2-28): Here is the State Department Briefing for February 28th which features discussion of Rodman’s visit to the DPRK. Here is Washington Post coverage of the briefing.

UPDATE 13 (2013-2-28): The game with Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman did not make the evening news tonight, but it did feature Rodman and the team visiting the Arch of Triumph and Juche Tower. They make an appearance at the 8:07 mark:

The video of the Rodman/Jong-un game/dinner will come to the USA tomorrow.

KCNA has published 15 photos from the game and dinner, but because their web page is so poorly designed, I cannot link to them.  If you go to, search for “American Players”. When the story appears, click on the camera icon to the left of the story.  You should be able to see the photos.

In the event that this is too much work for you, Yonhap has released some screenshots from North Korean television of the game and dinner (which has not made its way through the usual outlets to viewers in the Western hemisphere): one, two, three, four (the bow), five (the toast), six, seven, eight (the hug), nine.

UPDATE 12 (2013-2-28): This evening we will see how much of the performance ended up on North Korean television. In the meantime, KCNA reports on Kim Jong-un’s attendance of the game with Rodman:

Kim Jong Un Enjoys Basketball Game of DPRK, American Players

Pyongyang, February 28 (KCNA) — A mixed basketball game of the visiting American basketball players of Harlem Globetrotters and Korean players belonging to the Hwaebul basketball team of Korean University of Physical Education took place at Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium on Thursday. Among the American players was ex-player of NBA Dennis Rodman.

Sports fans and other Pyongyang citizens packed the gymnasium to watch the game with great interest.

Among the audience were foreign diplomatic envoys, representatives of international bodies, military attaches and other foreign guests here with their families.

The dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un, together with his wife Ri Sol Ju, came to the gymnasium to watch the game.

The players and audience broke into thunderous cheers, greatly excited to see the game together with Kim Jong Un.

Dennis Rodman went up to the auditorium to bow to Kim Jong Un.

Warmly welcoming him, Kim Jong Un let him sit next to him.

Brett Dennis Meister and Jeffrey Raymond Munn also sat near him.

American basketball players first played a demonstration game amid great attention of the audience.

They showed a variety of special basketball skills to be highly acclaimed.

Then a mixed game of DPRK and American players took place amid elated atmosphere.

Divided into red and white teams, the players carried out fierce seesaw battle.

In the first and second rounds, the red team players won 60:47 with long-distance shooting, dunk shot and other skills.

The audience enthusiastically cheered the players as they showed amazing skills.

During breaks, women’s brass band presented glamorous rhythmic formations.

National dances by Korean women artistes and a demonstration performance of Taekwon-Do players added to the cheerful mood.

Korean basketball players played the game well with American players of their teams in a coordinated way by fully displaying their techniques. American players made a good job of the game to give good impressions to the audience.

The white team combined man-to-man defence and fast break. The game ended in a draw 110:110.

Kim Jong Un applauded both teams for their nice game.

Dennis Rodman expressed thanks to Kim Jong Un, saying over the mike with excitement that his impressive Pyongyang visit is quite satisfactory and it is a great privilege for him.

He said he was very pleased to mix with Pyongyang citizens, adding that it is regrettable that the relations between the U.S. and the DPRK are not good, but Korean people are his friends and in particular, he considers Marshal Kim Jong Un a close friend.

Kim Jong Un was presented with a uniform of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team as a gift by the American guests.

This evening Kim Jong Un was invited to a dinner hosted by the DPRK Olympic Committee in honour of Rodman and his party.

He met and conversed with them in an amicable atmosphere.

He was pleased they visited Pyongyang to provide young people of the DPRK who are fond of basketball with an opportunity of enjoying the nice game, he said.

He expressed his expectation that such sports exchange would be activated, contributing to promoting mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries.

He welcomed their visit to the DPRK, hoping that through the visit they would become familiar with the DPRK people, especially with basketball fans.

Rodman said that it was the greatest pleasure for him to meet with Kim Jong Un and his wife for the first time for Americans.

The American basketball star hoped the sports exchange would continue between the two countries.

He wished Kim Jong Un good health, heartily thanking him for warm hospitality.

The dinner proceeded in an amicable atmosphere.

Here is a satellite image of the school where the North Korean team studies:


A satellite image of the stadium can be seen below.

UPDATE 11 (2013-2-28): Some photo work:


A collegaue informs me that the individual outlined in green used to be one of Kim Jong-il’s top body guards. Maybe he has taken a new job with Kim Jong-un?

The individual outlined in yellow was Wolf Blitzer’s (CNN) interpreter and handler. It appears from footage on CNN that he is also Rodman’s interpreter.

There are a few other “suits” who appear to be security, but if anyone else can identify people in the crowd, please let me know.

Nicolas Levi also spotted some faces in the crowd….including the Polish Ambassador.

UPDATE 10 (2013-2-28): Jean Lee tweets that Rodman and Kim-Jong-un had dinner as well:


Now there is no way to know (yet) whether it was one of the official residencies or just a guest house (like the one President Clinton or Eric Schmidt visited). But I am sure the food was good.

Associated Press story here.

CNN reports that the theme to “Dallas” was playing over and over in the background…

UPDATE 9 (2013-2-28): Even though no photos, or mention of the encounter, have appeared in the North Korean media (KCNA, Rodong Sinmun, or domestic television broadcast), Vice has the visuals:


How many words is this photo worth?

According to Vice:

Earlier today former Chicago Bulls superstar Dennis Rodman presided over a mixed-match basketball game in Pyongyang alongside Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. The teams consisted of VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy; Moose Weekes, Buckets Blakes, and Bull Bullard of the Harlem Globetrotters; and North Korea’s “Dream Team,” all of whom played their hearts out in what we have termed a “basketball diplomacy” mission. Following the game, Rodman gave a stirring speech that extended an olive branch to the Hermit Kingdom. The VICE crew is currently having a reception at the Supreme Leader’s house, and Duffy has invited Kim Jung-un to America and to tour the VICE offices. There isn’t much more to say other than that because our jaws are still on the floor. So while we pick them up and get more info from our team, enjoy these photos of the game. You can watch the highlights on VICE, our new HBO series that premieres April 5.

Alejandro Cao de Benos is jealous.

KCNA did report some of the American basketball player’s activities:

Ex-player of U.S. NBA Pay Respects to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il
Pyongyang, February 28 (KCNA) — Ex-player of the NBA of the U.S. Dennis Rodman and his party Thursday visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to pay respects to President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.

They paid high tribute to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il before their statues.

They entered the halls where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state and paid homage to them.

They went round the halls where orders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il received are on display and the halls which house cars, an electric car, a boat and train coaches used by them during their field guidance and foreign trips till the last moments of their lives.

They made an entry in the visitor’s book.

UPDATE 8 (2013-2-28): No word yet in the North Korean media, but apparently Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un did meet, watched a basketball game, and conversed in English. Read more here: Washington Post, Associated Press, Xinhua.

Nate Thayer also wrote this piece on the Kim family’s basketball history. Max Fisher wrote a follow up piece at the Washington Post.

UPDATE 7 (2013-2-27): Dennis Rodman participated in his first event in the DPRK on the 27th. According to KCNA:

DPRK, U.S. Basketball Players Have Joint Training

Pyongyang, February 27 (KCNA) — Basketball players of the DPRK and the U.S. conducted a joint training in Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium here on Wednesday.

Participating in it were U-18 players of the DPRK and ex-player of the NBA of the U.S. Dennis Rodman and his party.

Match tactics, training mode and technique movement of the players of the two countries were exchanged at the joint training.

A workshop on basketball technique took place that day.

Here is the February 26 State Department Briefing that discusses the visit.

Here is a satellite image of the facility (Google Earth:  39.040180°, 125.734745°):


 On the evening of the 27th, the DPRK evening news contained no information on the Rodman/Vice visit.

UPDATE 6 (2013-2-27): Koryo Tours reminds us of the first US basketball team to visit the DPRK in June 2012:

 According to the email newsletter:

“The team, Coaches International, conducted 2 training sessions for kids there – one at the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace and the second at the Kang Bang Sok [Kang Pang-sok] Middle School. This trip was just the beginning of an ongoing exchange and we’re pleased to announce that Coaches will come back to DPRK in 2013!”

UPDATE 5 (2013-2-27): A couple of colleagues have sent along this image from Japanese media which purports to show a young Kim Jong-un playing basketball in Switzerland.  He is wearing Dennis Rodman’s number, 91. I have no idea if this is actually Kim Jong-un, but I thought the idea was interesting enough to post.


If this is not Kim Jong-un, please let me know. But this Daily NK article from 2009 seems to make the case it is him. Nate Thayer says it is Kim Jong-chol, Kim Jong-un’s older brother.

UPDATE 4 (2013-2-27): In a New York Times article, Shane Smith also speaks about how the plan came together:

“It’s weird because when you go there, it’s all very anti-American,” Smith said. “North Korean kids are fed anti-American propaganda from pretty much the day they are born. But it’s O.K. to like American basketball.”

So Smith hatched a plan to take some of those Bulls players to North Korea for one of the installments of a series Smith will host on HBO, called “Vice,” featuring news and footage from around the world, which will make its debut April 5. Smith did not go through the State Department but received permission through his previous contacts and the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations. Smith said he was sure that Kim Jong-un’s love of basketball was why the trip was approved.

He quickly found that [Michael] Jordan was not likely to be a willing ambassador. “But Dennis is up for anything and everything, ” Smith said. He then recruited the Globetrotters to round out a team, and they offered up Anthony Blakes, known as Buckets; Alex Weekes, known as Moose; and Will Bullard, known as Bull. Ryan Duffy, a Vice correspondent who is on the trip, will also join in on the games to fill out the team.

“The Harlem Globetrotters are known worldwide as the Ambassadors of Goodwill, and we are proud to continue our storied heritage of entertaining families and breaking down social barriers worldwide,” the Globetrotters’ chief executive, Kurt Schneider, said in a statement. “Our aim is to entertain and inspire children everywhere. Every child deserves that opportunity.”

According to the Globetrotters, team members have traveled to 122 countries in the team’s 87-year history. This one might be the oddest trip of all, given North Korea’s isolation.

“It is a bizarre place,” Smith said. “And this is a bizarre idea.”

It appears that after presenting the idea to “the New York Channel”, they were issued an invitation. According to Rodman:

“We got invited and we just came over to have some fun,” Rodman said. “Hopefully, everything will be O.K. and the kids will have a good time with the games.”

UPDATE 3 (2013-2-26): The Rodman/Vice/Globetrotter arrival did not make the evening news in Pyongyang (on February 26th), but the group did get a mention in the Workers’ Party News Paper, Rodong Sinmun (로동신문). See the report here in Korean.

UPDATE 2 (2013-2-26): According to Max Fisher at the Washington Post, Dennis Rodman’s agent claims he will be meeting with Kim Jong-un.

We readers are instructed to take that with a grain of salt.

UPDATE 1 (2013-2-26): Dennis Rodman has tweeted this blog post.  I have to check, but I believe this is a first for NKeconWatch.

Hat tip to Michael Madden, who wrote a comprehensive piece on Rodman’s arrival.

**Seems he deleted the tweet. I guess I offended him?

ORIGINAL POST (2013-2-26): Here  is footage from KCNA:

Here is the announcement in KCNA:

Ex-Player of American NBA, His Party Arrive Here

Pyongyang, February 26 (KCNA) — Ex-player of the NBA of the U.S. Dennis Rodman and his party arrived here Tuesday.

They were greeted at the airport by Son Kwang Ho, vice-chairman of the DPRK Olympic Committee, and officials concerned.

Here is additional coverage in The Guardian.

Isaac Stone Fish has a fun addendum at Foreign Policy.

Associated Press.

Los Angeles Times.



5 Responses to “Yes, Dennis Rodman is in Pyongyang with the Harlem Globetrotters”

  1. MB says:

    Regarding the guy in green in update 11, he is indeed Kim Jong-Un’s bodyguard. Here he is in a guard command uniform accompanying Kim on his Rungna pleasure ground field trip:

  2. nannasin smith says:

    the kids will have a good time with the games.


  3. Lala says:

    Here are some pictures of the bodyguard entourage. Walking in with KJU: