Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Thursday and said recent events there, including the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, should have no effect on his visit.
“I can’t control what they do with their government, I can’t control what they say or how they do things here,” Rodman told the Associated Press. “I’m just trying to come here as a sports figure and try to hope I can open the door for a lot of people in the country.”
Rodman is in North Korea to put the finishing touches on his plans to bring 12 ex-NBA players to Pyongyang for a Jan. 8 exhibition game marking Kim’s birthday.
Rodman and Kim have been friends since the former NBA star traveled to North Korea in February for an HBO series.
On Thursday, Rodman said he didn’t understand the big controversy surrounding his visit.
“I’ve come over to see my friend, and people always give me a little hard time about me saying that,” Rodman said. “I’m very proud to say he’s my friend, because he hasn’t done anything to put a damper, to say any negative things about my country.”
Rodman has not yet announced the roster for the game.
“North Korea has given me the opportunity to bring these players and their families over here, so people can actually see, so these players can actually see, that this country is actually not as bad as people project it to be in the media,” he said.