Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Dennis Rodman waves to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, after singing Happy Birthday to Kim before an exhibition basketball game with U.S. and North Korean players at an indoor stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
Rodman apologizes for comments on jailed American
First Published Jan 09 2014 08:59 am • Last Updated Jan 09 2014 11:24 pm

Pyongyang, North Korea • Dennis Rodman apologized Thursday for comments he made in North Korea about a detained American missionary, saying he had been drinking and was under pressure as he organized a game with former NBA players.

The former basketball star issued the apology through publicist Jules Feiler in an email message to The Associated Press, a day after he sang "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of the friendly game.

Photos
Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Rodman has been slammed for not using his influence with Kim to help free Kenneth Bae, the missionary in poor health who is being confined in North Korea for "anti-state" crimes. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Rodman implied Bae was at fault.

"I want to apologize," Rodman said Thursday. "I take full responsibility for my actions. It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It’s not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It’s not an excuse, it’s just the truth."

Rodman said he wanted to apologize first to Bae’s family. "I’m very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I’m truly sorry."

In the interview, Rodman was asked whether he would raise the issue of Bae during his visit.

"Kenneth Bae did one thing," Rodman replied. "If you understand what Kenneth Bae did — do you understand what he did in this country?"

Asked to explain, Rodman declined to respond.

Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary and tour operator based in China, has been detained for more than a year. North Korea sees missionary work as a threat to its authoritarian government.

Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, welcomed Rodman’s apology.


story continues below
story continues below

"I think it’s good to see him recognize the gravity and the urgency of Ken’s plight," she said from her home in Edmonds, Washington. "It’s nothing he can make light of or play games with."

"I just want to make sure that everyone — not just Dennis Rodman — everyone knows about Kenneth Bae’s plight and how precarious it is," she said.

The U.S. State Department distanced itself from Rodman and said it did not want to "dignify" his activities or comments in Pyongyang by commenting on them. But spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the department was open to speaking with Rodman on his return.

"We have not reached out to him. We’ve said before, if he wants to reach out to us, we’re happy to hear from him and what he has to say," she told reporters.

Rodman dedicated the game to his "best friend" Kim, who along with his wife and other senior officials and their wives watched from a special seating area. The capacity crowd of about 14,000 at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium clapped loudly as Rodman sang a verse from the birthday song and then bowed deeply to Kim, seated above him in the stands.

Rodman said he was honored to be able to play the game in the North Korean capital and called the event "historic." Some members of the U.S. Congress, the NBA and human rights groups, however, say he has become a public relations tool for North Korea’s government.

The government’s poor human rights record and its threats to use nuclear weapons against rival South Korea and the United States have kept it a pariah state. Kim shocked the world in December by having his uncle, once considered his mentor, executed after being accused of a litany of crimes including corruption, womanizing, drug abuse and attempting to seize power.

Rodman has refused to address those concerns while continuing to forge a relationship with Kim.

Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim, who inherited power after the death of his father in late 2011. Rodman has said he is not a statesman and instead is seeking only to build cultural connections with the North through basketball that may help improve relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

Along with Rodman, the former NBA players included ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker. Also on the roster were Craig Hodges, Doug Christie, Charles D. Smith and four streetballers.

———

Associated Press writer Doug Esser in Seattle, Washington, contributed to this report.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.