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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid