Dennis Rodman and three Harlem Globetrotters basketball players arrived in North Korea on a week-long cultural exchange mission that may include an exhibition game attended by the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
The tour comes amid escalating tensions with neighboring countries and the U.S. after North Korea conducted a nuclear test this month.
The players will conduct youth clinics and participate in community-based games during the visit organized by VICE, a Brooklyn, New York-based youth media company. VICE founder Shane Smith said in a statement that while sending Rodman and the Globetrotters to North Korea may seem strange, “finding common ground on the basketball court is a beautiful thing.”
“These channels of cultural communication might appear untraditional, and perhaps they are, but we think it’s important just to keep the lines open,” Smith said.
Rodman, who won five National Basketball Association championships and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011, joined Globetrotter players Bull Bullard, Buckets Blakes and Moose Weekes on the trip to Pyongyang to film a segment for a television series that will premiere on the Home Box Office Inc. network in April.
Rodman, 51, is a seven-time NBA rebounding champion who’s known for his tattoos, piercings and outlandish behavior, such as wearing a wedding dress to promote his 1996 autobiography and competing in professional wrestling events.
North Korea becomes the 122nd country or territory visited by members of the Globetrotters, whose last trip outside the U.S. was to Afghanistan in November and December. The 87-year-old Globetrotters are known for their ball-handling wizardry, basketball artistry and clown-like antics.
“We’re proud to continue our storied heritage of entertaining families and breaking down social barriers,” Globetrotters Chief Executive Officer Kurt Schneider said in a statement. “Our aim is to entertain and inspire children everywhere. Every child deserves that opportunity.”