Whether it's the 60th anniversary celebrations, the wrangling over the Kaesong Industrial zone, or the South Koreans shooting dead a man trying to cross the border to enter the North - Korea is one of those places that easily makes the news headlines.
|Basketball coaching in Pyongyang by Scot Byrd|
Rodman has quite a reputation for (what people in England would call) eccentricity, back in the States - he's probably just as famous for his piercings and ever-changing hair colour, as he is for his basketball legacy and awards, not to mention dating Madonna and appearing naked with basketballs on the cover of his autobiography, Bad As I Wanna Be.
I can see what's in it for Rodman - perhaps a genuine desire to do something useful, backed up with the need for continued celebrity, now that his heyday as a basketball player is over. But what's in it for Kim? Does he even realise (or care) how all of this is perceived in the West?
|North Korean kids playing basketball by Scot Byrd|
But does sport really have all the answers? To homophobia in Russia? To racism on the football fields? To nuclear weapons in Pyongyang? And is someone like Dennis Rodman really the best person to manage diplomacy with an erratic regime like Kim Jong-un's? Will his attempts to bring NBA players to North Korea really bring Americans and North Koreans closer together, or will it backfire, when Kim Jong-un realises what a circus this whole thing is? Who knows - but it'll be interesting to see what happens next in the Rodman/North Korean story!
I found these wonderful images by Scot Byrd (aka byrdsiz) of young North Koreans playing basketball on Flickr and they have been shared with us using the Creative Commons license. It looks as though Scot travelled to North Korea with a basketball initiative known as Project uNKnown - which looks like a genuinely ground-breaking initiative to use basketball as a way of overcoming cultural boundaries and getting to 'know' each other. Thanks Scot for sharing these images with us.