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Vice Breaks the Ice in North Korea for HBO

Newsmag pushes 'basketball diplomacy' effort

Vice and its forthcoming eponymous HBO newsmag managed to nab access to one of the most secretive nations in the world, a territory many news companies have been shuttered from — North Korea.

Shane Smith, founder of Vice Media, organized the trip to the Hermit Kingdom, bringing with him “basketball diplomacy.” Vice correspondent Ryan Duffy, basketball star Dennis Rodman and members of the Harlem Globetrotters arrived in Pyongyang, North Korea, along with a production crew lensing for HBO’s “Vice” series. A game of basketball occurred between the Globetrotters and some of North Korea’s most talented basketball players, which ended in a tie.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, an avid basketball fan, was in attendance at the game, sharing a courtside table with Rodman. The Vice team and delegation then attended a dinner with Kim Jong-un.

Given the notoriously secluded nature of Kim Jong-un and his country, Vice’s access to not only the nation but intimate gatherings with the leader will most likely serve as a ratings goldmine  for the frosh season of the HBO newsmag. Access is also surprising given the strained relations between North Korea and the U.S. after North Korea tested nuclear weapons within the last few months.

“We here at Vice are very pleased that Kim Jong-un could make it to the game and that everyone enjoyed themselves so much. To see everyone letting their hair down and getting into the match made it all the more worthwhile,” Smith stated. “At the reception afterwards many kind words were spoken and invitations offered. The pictures of the game speak for themselves.”

Vice, known for its coverage of gritty and deeply niche territories, will launch its late night HBO newsmag on Friday, April 5. At the program’s TCA session in January, Smith described the show’s coverage as focused on “the absurdity of the modern condition.”

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