Dennis Rodman, three Harlem Globetrotters and a documentary film crew traveled to North Korea on Tuesday in the hopes of smoothing relations between the dictatorship and the United States.

“These channels of cultural communication might appear untraditional, and perhaps they are, but we think it’s important just to keep the lines open,” the documentary filmmaker Shane Smith said in a statement. “And if Washington isn’t going to send their Generals then we’ll send our Globetrotters.”

U.S.-North Korean relations have been complicated because of North Korea’s decision to continue testing nuclear weapons. However, basketball remains one common interest. A basketball autographed by Michael Jordan that belonged to Kim Jong-il, who loved the 90s Chicago Bulls, is featured in North Korea's national museum The New York Times reports. Current North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un is also an avid basketball fan, and there is hope that Jong-un will meet with the filmmaker and the players.

Visiting North Korea has been a polarizing topic. In January, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Eric Schmidt of Google made their own trek, which was not received well by the State Department. But some think that these ambassadorial trips could have long-term benefits. “It also helps expose North Koreans to an image of the U.S. that is not the relentless negative one you see in official propaganda, showing them Americans are normal human beings — although perhaps ‘normal human being’ doesn’t quite apply to Dennis Rodman,” Charles K. Armstrong, director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University, told the Los Angeles Times.

This documentary is part of an HBO program called Vice, which will premiere on April 5.

Hal Sundt

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