Dennis Rodman, the flamboyant former NBA star, arrived in North Korea for his third visit Thursday, the country's state-run news agency reported. Dennis, 52, is there to train North Koreans for an exhibition basketball game next month to celebrate leader Kim Jung Un's birthday. Rodman told reporters he's still "very proud" to call the controversial leader his friend, according to ESPN on Dec. 19, also calling him a "very good guy".
Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea less than a week after the repressive regime announced the recent execution of second-in-command and Kim's uncle by marriage, Jang Song Thaek.
Jang's execution is being viewed by some as a sign that Kim Jung Un's hold on the government may not be as stable as he'd have the world believe. Kim's uncle was accused of trying to overthrow the government.
Rodman has been under fire for cavorting with the North Korean dictator while Korean-American Kenneth Bae, an evangelist and tour guide, remains in jail there.
Bae was arrested in North Korea in November 2012 for what were labeled "hostile acts". He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after he was found guilty of attempting to undermine the government through religious activities.
U.S. officials want Bae, a Christian missionary, released on humanitarian grounds. His family fears for his life as they say he suffers from chronic health conditions that require doctors' care.
Following Rodman's first visit last spring, when he told Kim he had "a friend for life", the former basketballer tweeted the leader to "do him a solid" and release Bae.
But Rodman's attitude changed dramatically when he visited North Korea in September, angrily telling reporters he's not a diplomat for the U.S. when asked if he'd fight for Bae's release.
"Ask Obama about that, ask Hillary Clinton about that", Rodman fired at reporters according to CNN, adding, "Ask those ---holes".
Dennis is said to be over there training North Korean players for the January 8 exhibition game in Pyongyang. Reports say he will meet with Kim during his visit, though no other details about his plans were released.
Rodman said he plans to bring 12 other former NBA players over to play the North Koreans next month, but he hasn't yet announced the roster for the game.
The basketball star did say however, that if after the former NBA players go home they say some "really cool things" about North Korea, then he will have done his job.
Rodman went on saying North Korea has given him the opportunity to bring these other players and their families over there, so they can see that the country is actually not as bad as people project it to be in the media.
"I can't control what they do with their government, I can't control what they say or how they do things here,'' Rodman said, adding, "I'm just trying to come here as a sports figure and try to hope I can open the door for a lot of people in the country''.
Rodman told reporters in Pyongyang that he's very proud to say Kim Jung Un is his friend, because he hasn't done or said anything negative about his own country.