SEOUL: Flamboyant basketball star Dennis Rodman handed over a copy of Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” to a North Korean minister on Thursday, along with a whole host of other off-the-wall goodies.
The eccentric ex-Chicago Bulls player is shown in video and photos presenting the North’s Sports Minister Kim Il Guk with a copy of the book by Trump, who was Rodman’s boss when he appeared on the “Celebrity Apprentice” reality TV show.
Rodman, wearing green nail varnish, also gave the minister a copy of “Where’s Waldo? The Totally Essential Travel Collection”, along with some soap, and two autographed jerseys.
The “Where’s Waldo?” series—known in some parts of the world as “Where’s Wally?”— feature very busy cartoon pictures where the reader has to find the main character. He is often hiding in a crowd or behind objects.
A review of “The Totally Essential Travel Collection” on Amazon.co.uk says it “is a great tool for learning about different cultures, various historical events and for expanding your child’s geographical knowledge”.
Rodman arrived in the isolated North Korean capital Tuesday on a mission he said he believed US President Donald Trump would be “pretty happy” about, adding he was trying to accomplish something that “we both need.”
US officials have repeatedly said Rodman is traveling to North Korea as a private citizen, despite media speculation he is working as an unofficial emissary for Trump.
There was no indication in the video, released by the AP news agency, as to whether the copy of Trump’s book was signed by the US president.
‘Friend for life’
Rodman’s visit is at least his fifth trip to the Stalinist state. He was most recently there in 2014 when he attracted a deluge of criticism after being filmed singing happy birthday to his “friend for life,” leader Kim Jong-Un.
The 56-year-old NBA Hall of Famer, who was heavily criticized for failing to raise the plight of a jailed US missionary on a previous trip, said discussing detained US citizens was “not my purpose” with his most recent visit.
He arrived the same day that American student Otto Warmbier was released from detention by North Korea “on humanitarian grounds” and evacuated to the US, with his family saying he had apparently been in a coma for over a year.
US officials have said Rodman, who routinely distances himself from political events in North Korea, had nothing to do with Warmbier’s release.
So far on his trip, according to the video footage released Thursday, Rodman has met with North Korean athletes, including watching a men’s basketball team play.
“All of you guys should be proud of yourselves, because, you know, a lot of people don’t give you guys credit, because this is such a small country, and not many people from North Korea can compete around the world,” Rodman told the North Korean athletes, according to the video footage.
“But for you guys to come back here in your country, with a medal, that says a lot about North Korea, because people don’t really take North Korea so seriously about sports,” he added.
The player nicknamed “The Worm” is one of the few Westerners to have met Kim, who took over following the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in 2011.
It is not clear whether Rodman, who once dated Madonna and was married to model and actress Carmen Electra, will be meeting Kim Jong-Un. He has met Kim on some but not all of his previous trips. AFP