Skip to main content

Dennis Rodman tells of Korea basketball event, may have leaked Kim child's name

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Mon September 9, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Basketball diplomacy" event announced
  • He reportedly says that Kim's daughter's name is Ju Ae
  • Rodman has just returned from his second visit to North Korea this year
  • A North Korea expert says it's too early to talk about whether the baby is a likely heir

(CNN) -- Eccentric former basketball star Dennis Rodman may not have brought imprisoned American Kenneth Bae back with him from North Korea, but he did emerge with something to announce.

Dennis Rodman sings "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, January 8. In his latest round of "basketball diplomacy," Rodman made his fourth visit to North Korea, one of the world's most totalitarian states, to participate in a basketball game between North Korea and a team of former NBA players. Dennis Rodman sings "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, January 8. In his latest round of "basketball diplomacy," Rodman made his fourth visit to North Korea, one of the world's most totalitarian states, to participate in a basketball game between North Korea and a team of former NBA players.
Dennis Rodman's trips to North Korea
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
>
>>
Photos: Dennis Rodman in N. Korea Photos: Dennis Rodman in N. Korea
Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman speaks at a press conference at the Soho Grand Hotel in New York on Monday, September 9. Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman speaks at a press conference at the Soho Grand Hotel in New York on Monday, September 9.
Dennis Rodman press conference
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
Dennis Rodman conference Dennis Rodman conference

Along with representatives from Paddy Power, an online betting company, he will put together a "basketball diplomacy" event involving players from North Korea, he said Monday.

At a news conference, he called Kim Jong Un, ruler of the repressive state, a "very good guy."

Rodman also set tongues wagging over the weekend by leaking the purported name of Kim's baby daughter.

Returning from his second trip to the reclusive, nuclear-armed nation, Rodman gave an interview Sunday with The Guardian, a British newspaper, in which he described the "relaxing time by the sea" he spent with Kim and his family.

Rodman to Obama: Let's talk
Rodman to train N. Korea basketball team
Media frenzy greets Dennis Rodman

'A good dad'

The personal life of Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, is shrouded in secrecy. Even his exact age remains unconfirmed by outsiders. (He is believed to be in his early 30s.)

Speculation sprang up last year that Ri might be pregnant after a photo carried by state media showed her wearing a long coat that could have been hiding a bump. But North Korean authorities kept quiet about the matter.

The flamboyant Rodman, 52, shed more light on the situation in his Guardian interview, including the daughter's name.

"I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri as well," he told the newspaper.

He described Kim, who sits atop one of the world's most repressive regimes, as "a good dad."

Ruling dynasty

The Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea for three generations. Kim Jong Un follows his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

The regime has pursued the development of nuclear weapons while millions of its subjects have been left impoverished and malnourished.

It's a little early to start speculating whether Ju Ae is a likely heir to her father, said Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in South Korea.

Lankov, the author of the recent book "The Real North Korea," said the question of succession was unlikely to arise for at least another 30 years, assuming Kim Jong Un remains healthy.

"And I don't believe the North Korean monarchy is going to last another 30 years," he said. If it does, Kim and Ri are young enough to have several other children in the meantime.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they have five more," he said.

A big announcement?

Rodman has so far made no mention on his Twitter account of his bonding time with the Kim family.

But he suggested late Sunday something was afoot.

"Just returned from North Korea. HUGE announcement tomorrow morning in NYC," he said in a post.

It was unclear what he was specifically referring to. The Guardian reported on his plans to organize a basketball game between American and Korean teams.

American still imprisoned

Rodman had already poured cold water on speculation he might have been trying to secure the release of Bae, the U.S. citizen serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor in North Korea.

"It is not my job to talk about Kenneth Bae," he told reporters at the Beijing airport on Saturday.

"Ask Obama about that, ask Hillary Clinton about that," Rodman said. "Ask those ---holes."

Rodman had previously made no secret about his desire to help Bae, who has been transferred to a hospital after his health deteriorated. The retired NBA player once tweeted that he wanted Kim to "do him a solid" by freeing the American prisoner.

But Rodman's friendship with Kim, an avid basketball fan, doesn't appear to carry enough weight to get Bae out of jail.

U.S. officials have repeatedly called on North Korean officials to release Bae, who was convicted earlier this year of attempting to bring down the government. Pyongyang last month abruptly withdrew an invitation to a U.S. envoy who was to travel there to try to secure Bae's release.

Previous criticism

Rodman was criticized over his first visit to North Korea, in February, during which he was pictured laughing and eating while watching a basketball game with Kim.

That visit came during a period of escalating tensions in which North Korea threatened missile strikes on the United States and South Korea. The situation has gradually calmed over recent months.

In his comments to The Guardian on Sunday, Rodman, one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history, continued to defend the North's young leader.

"Kim is a great guy, he loves basketball, and he's interested in building trust and understanding through sport and cultural exchanges," he said.

CNN's K.J. Kwon contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:51 AM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system," the country declares.
updated 9:35 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
updated 4:52 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
The crowd cheers as the stars make their way to the ring for first pro-wrestling bout North Korea has seen in almost 20 years.
updated 9:37 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley makes a rare live report from reclusive North Korea.
updated 10:45 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley is given a rare look inside North Korea and tours Kim Jong Un's pet project, a waterpark.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
North Korea rejected an invitation to the Pope's Mass in Seoul. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Wed July 2, 2014
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 11:13 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
updated 7:38 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
updated 8:12 PM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
ADVERTISEMENT