Dennis Rodman, NBA old-timers arrive in North Korea for basketball game

CNN/ Newswire | 1/6/2014, 12:36 p.m.
Eccentric basketball star Dennis Rodman and several other former NBA players have arrived in North Korea to take part in ...
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman announced Monday that he will be working with Paddy Power, an online betting company, on a "basketball diplomacy" event involving players from North Korea.

'Publicity stunt'

Rodman met and coached the North Korean team on his most recent trip. But Cho Sung-Won, a South Korean basketball player who played against North Korea in 1999, said Rodman should not underestimate the side:

"The North Koreans were quite strong, well-built and tall as well," he said. "They were very determined not to lose against South Korea. It was a friendly match, but I was a bit intimidated."

Cho was skeptical about Rodman's diplomatic aims.

"I don't know Dennis Rodman personally, but he is quite peculiar and does unexpected things," he said.

"I think he went to North Korea as a publicity stunt," Cho said. "On the other hand, North Korea plays some high-quality basketball, so they could learn from his experience."

South Korean table tennis player Hyun Jung-Wha, who was part of a joint Korean team that took part in the 1991 World Championships, praised Rodman's bid to break the ice with Pyongyang.

"What Dennis Rodman is doing now is personal, but I think he's brave for doing it," she told CNN.

"I believe sports definitely can help diplomacy," Hyun said. "Sportsmanship is pure, and I think diplomatic results can come out through sports."

But the U.S. government appears to be unconvinced.

"I know it's amusing or maybe interesting to talk about Dennis Rodman, but I actually think the focus really should be on the brutality of the North Korean regime he's going to meet with," Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said last month at the time of Rodman's previous trip.

CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton, Steve Forrest and Charlie Miller contributed to this report.