(PYONGYANG, North Korea) — When Google CEO Eric Schmidt and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson visited North Korea last month, they did not get an audience with leader Kim Jong Un.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, on the other hand, got to spend Thursday in Pyongyang with Jong Un watching an exhibition basketball game staring some of the Harlem Globetrotters, making him the first American to meet with North Korea’s new leader since Jong Un assumed power in December or 2011 after the death of his father.
Jong Un, 30, is a longtime fan of the flamboyant athlete, and sat courtside with his sports hero while four Globetrotters and twelve North Korean players played ball.
Foreign diplomats were invited to watch the game, but foreign journalists were not allowed in to cover it.
The game split the Globetrotters and North Korean players into two teams, and ended in a 110-110 draw.
Rodman thanked the North Korean leader for the invitation.
“Although relations between the two countries are regrettable,” he said following the game, “personally I am a friend of Marshal Kim Jong Un and the DPRK people,” according to Chinese news agency Xinhua.
“You have a friend for life,” Rodman, unassisted by translators, told Jong Un.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Sarah Anderson, Deseret News
Angela Dewan and Euan McKirdy, CNN
Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN