Rodman appears to blame U.S. missionary for North Korean captivity

Tue Jan 7, 2014 10:16pm EST
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WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) - Dennis Rodman, in a television interview on Tuesday, appeared to blame Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae for his captivity in North Korea, the latest in a series of controversial comments by the former U.S. basketball star.

During an expletive-ridden interview with CNN about his fourth trip to the reclusive state, Rodman seemed to say that Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who has been held in North Korea since November 2012 and was convicted last May on charges of crimes against the state, was responsible for his own situation.

"If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. ... Do you understand what he did in this country? Why is he held captive in this country?" Rodman said, declining to respond to questions to clarify what he meant.

Rodman brought a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to mark leader Kim Jong Un's birthday, which is believed to fall on Wednesday, though this has never been officially confirmed.

The games come just weeks after the purge and execution of Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who until then was one of the most powerful figures in North Korea. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events in North Korea as a "reign of terror."

Asked about Rodman's comments, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, "I'm not going to dignify that outburst with a response," as he emphasized that the trip was "private travel" that was not endorsed by the U.S. government.

"I'm simply going to say that we remain gravely concerned about Kenneth Bae's health, and continue to urge DPRK authorities to grant his amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds," Carney said.

Bae's sister, Terri Chung, asked on CNN about Rodman's comments, said, "He clearly doesn't know anything about Kenneth, about his case. So we were appalled by that."

"This isn't some game. This is about a person's life - father of three, a son and a brother and a husband," Chung said. "Dennis Rodman, he's not a diplomat. He says so himself and he's definitely not in a position to pass judgment on Kenneth Bae."   Continued...

Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman (L) arrives at Pyongyang airport in Pyongyang, in this photo released by Kyodo January 6, 2014. REUTERS/Kyodo