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Dennis Rodman leaves for N. Korea despite recent turmoil there

Dec. 17, 2013 at 6:49 AM   |   Comments

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PYONGYANG, North Korea, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman left for North Korea to help train its basketball team despite the country's turmoil, the online betting company sponsoring him said.

Paddy Power of Dublin spokesman Rory Scott said Tuesday that Rodman, owner of five NBA championship rings from his days with the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls, was to arrive in Beijing Tuesday then travel to North Korea Thursday with a documentary film crew, the New York Times reported.

Rodman will leave North Korea Monday, Scott said.

"We spoke to a lot of experts who said it's safe for foreigners to travel to North Korea," he said.

Rodman visited North Korea last winter, becoming friends with its leader, Kim Jong Un, a fan of U.S. basketball. Rodman was one of the first Westerners to meet Kim after he assumed leadership of the reclusive country two years ago after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

North Korea has been hit with turmoil recently, notably the execution of Kim's uncle last week for treason and debauchery.

The United States, which has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, had advised that no Americans should travel there after the arrest of an 85-year-old Korean War veteran who visited North Korea in October. The veteran, Merrill E. Newman of Palo Alto, Calif., was released this month. American Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary arrested in November 2012, was sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labor for "committing hostile acts" against the country.

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