Dennis Rodman, former NBA star and friend of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, said that contrary to widespread media reports, the North Korean leader did not have his uncle and former girlfriend executed, claiming to have stood right next to them while visiting.
"You could say anything here about North Korea and people would believe it. The last time I went there, when they said they killed his girlfriend, they killed his uncle, they just fed him to the dogs… They were standing right behind me," Rodman says in a recent interview with DuJour.
Rodman, who has visited North Korea a number of times to meet Kim and to play in exhibition basketball games, refers to two separate incidents. In December 2013, North Korea media reportedly said that Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, had been executed for "attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state."
The report apparently called Jang a "traitor to the nation," "worse than a dog" and "despicable human scum."
Earlier that, year, singer Hyon Song-wol, who was the leader's former girlfriend, was reportedly executed by machine gun along with other musicians and dancers for participating in porn videos. Rodman in his recent interview did not clarify if the person he saw was indeed Kim's former girlfriend in question.
Some South Korean reports had even stated that Kim had Jang's entire family put to death, including his children, but like many media reports centering around the isolated country, there were problems confirming the truth.
While extensive U.N. reports have claimed that Kim is behind "unspeakable atrocities" being committed in his country, Rodman said that he does not see the hostile dictator that Kim is made out to be.
"He's for the people. I wish they had somebody that could actually come back with me. You've got a five-foot-one president in a small country that scares the shit out of people on this earth. And people here want to know, 'Is he this tyrant? Does he kill people?' I've been around him and his compound, I've been to his vacation spots. If I would have seen something negative about him, I probably would have come back and said so," the former NBA star said.
When asked about the hundreds of thousands of people kept at labor camps, Rodman replied: "You name any country in the world… Which country does not have that [expletive]? Every country has that." He said that he has indeed seen people who are dying of malnourishment and from being overworked, but insisted that Kim is not like his grandfather or father.
"He's not like that. He's actually trying to change it. He's actually doing cool things for these people, and that's why they love him so much," the former Chicago Bulls player said.