What do you give the man who has an entire country at his mercy?
When former US pro-basketball star and all-round character Dennis Rodman met with North Korea’s sports minister this week he took along gifts for the country’s authoritarian leader, Kim Jong-un.
Mr Rodman has in recent years forged an unlikely friendship with Mr Kim, a big basketball fan who is alleged to have executed hundreds of people, including close family members, to cement his authority.
The North Korean leader reportedly lives a hugely extravagant life, paid for with vast funds from the state coffers. All in all, a tricky man to shop for. Here’s what Mr Rodman bought the man he called his “friend for life”.
The Art of the Deal
Gift one was President Donald Trump’s 1987 ghostwritten bestseller The Art of the Deal, a guidebook on how to negotiate some of the best deals. The copy wasn’t signed by the author. Or Mr Trump.
Mr Kim has at his disposal ways and means of negotiating which would be unpalatable even to a New York real estate developer. In fact, the North Korean leader, who occupies a semi-religious position in the country’s political firmament, and whose every word is taken down in real time by a cadre of notebook-carrying assistants, probably has very little call to do any effective negotiating at all.
Where’s Waldo? Totally Essential Travel Collection
Gift number two: a copy of Where’s Waldo. A seemingly bizarre gift for a world leader. Then again, could this somehow allow Mr Kim to practise for when he needs to pick a friend out of the crowd?
As for buying him the Totally Essential Travel Collection, Mr Kim has no known friendships with foreign leaders and rarely – if ever – leaves the country. Mr Rodman famously married himself in a public stunt, so we know he has a sense of humour.
Two autographed jerseys
Mr Kim is known to be a big fan of basketball, despite his singular dislike for the country that made the sport famous. He is said to have inherited the eccentric obsession from his father, the supreme leader, Kim Jong-il. In a failed diplomatic effort in 2000, then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presented the elder Kim with a ball signed by Michael Jordan.
During a visit in 2014, Mr Rodman played – and sensibly lost – an exhibition game against a Korean side in honour of Mr Kim’s birthday. He also sung him happy birthday from the court.
This is probably the most sane gift of the lot.
A mermaid puzzle
Both the Rodman camp and the Trump administration have said publicly that Mr Rodman is not travelling on state-sanctioned ‘basketball diplomacy’.
So either they’re both lying, and the mermaid puzzle, ingeniously, once completed, carries a coded message, or they’re telling the truth, and one of Dennis Rodman’s gifts to the leader of North Korea was a mermaid puzzle.
Some fancy soaps
So he panicked and grabbed a couple of things at the airport – you’ve never done that?
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