Saturday 19 April 2014

Today FM's Matt Cooper due to fly home today from North Korea

US basketballer Denis Rodman, with Today FM’s Matt Cooper in the background, at Beijing Airport en route to Pyongyang.

BROADCASTER Matt Cooper is due to return home today after attending a basketball game held in honour of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The Today FM presenter was not visible in any photographs released from the game, which marked the dictator's birthday.

However, he is understood to have been a guest of former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who has sparked controversy by declaring Kim as his "best friend".

Rodman led the 14,000 crowd in a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' to Kim before the game between a selection of ex-NBA stars and the North Korean national team.

Rodman's claim that he was engaging in "basketball diplomacy" has been described as naive and laughable in the US.

Cooper, who presents 'The Last Word' on Today FM, will be back on air next Monday. He did not speak publicly about the reasons for his trip but a Today FM spokesperson has said that he was travelling in a personal capacity.

North Korea's poor human rights record and its threats to use nuclear weapons against South Korea and the US have kept it a pariah state. Rodman (52) has refused to address those concerns -- including the execution of Kim's uncle last month -- while continuing to forge a relationship with the leader.

The North Koreans were leading 47 points to 39 before the teams were mixed. Rodman played only in the first half and then sat next to Kim.

"A lot of people have expressed different views about me and your leader, your marshal, and I take that as a compliment," Rodman told the crowd.

"Yes, he is a great leader, he provides for his people here in this country and thank God the people here love the marshal."

Irish Independent

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