News / Asia

Rodman Apologizes for Comments on US Citizen Held in N. Korea

Dennis Rodman sings Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, before an exhibition basketball game at an indoor stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 8, 2014.
Dennis Rodman sings Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, before an exhibition basketball game at an indoor stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 8, 2014.
VOA News
Retired American basketball star Dennis Rodman, who is on a self-described "basketball diplomacy" trip to North Korea, has apologized for an incoherent, profanity-filled rant in which he appeared to blame a U.S. citizen for being held by Pyongyang.

In a statement through a publicist, Rodman said Thursday he takes "full responsibility" for his comments, which he said "embarrassed a lot of people." He said it had been a "stressful day" and he had been drinking before the live interview with CNN.

In the Tuesday interview, the 52-year-old Rodman seemed to imply that Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae deserved the sentence of 15 years hard labor given to him by the North. Puffing a cigar, Rodman asked the CNN anchor, "Do you understand what he did in this country?"

The comments received widespread criticism by Bae's family and others. His mother, Myunghee Bae, told VOA she was "disappointed" by Rodman's comments and said he should do more to push for his release.

"We hoped he could mention my son when he met with (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un. Because Rodman himself said he was a close friend of Kim. I was very disappointed at his comments and I could not believe he could say such a thing as an American citizen," she said.

Although Rodman has used Twitter to ask North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to release Bae, the eccentric former National Basketball Association All-Star has said he will not bring up politics during his time in the North.

Bae's family has not yet responded to Rodman's apology. But in an interview with VOA, Bae's longtime friend Bobby Lee questioned whether the statement was genuine.

"What would be more direct and encouraging if he went on camera himself and made his apology directly from himself to the public and to the family," Lee said. "It's just hard to gauge whether he really wrote that press release, or if it was done simply by the PR ((public relations)) folks."

Lee, who attended the University of Oregon with Bae, views Rodman's trip as motivated by financial and personal gains, noting his recent endorsement deals with several companies.

"He is on a Hollywood mission to elevate his own brand for his commercial contracts. And that's just what's ultimately so insulting is the fact that he's willing to surf this wave for himself and completely deny the fact that there are horrific things going on in North Korea," Lee said.

Rodman traveled to North Korea with a group of retired NBA players, who on Wednesday played a game of basketball to celebrate Mr. Kim's birthday, with the North Korean leader himself in attendance.

Rodman began the festivities at the packed Pyongyang auditorium by singing "Happy Birthday" to Mr. Kim, the head of a government accused of some of the world's worst rights abuses.

On a previous trip to Pyongyang, Rodman met personally with Mr. Kim, calling him a "good guy" and a "friend for life." He has defended his trip as an effort to "open the door" to North Korea.

State Department and White House officials have stressed that Rodman's trip to the impoverished and isolated country is unhelpful and not sanctioned by the U.S.

Rights groups say as many as 200,000 people are held in North Korea's vast and notorious system of prison camps, where inmates are said to be raped, murdered, and subject to forced manual labor.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs