Skip to main content

Dennis Rodman asks Kim Jong Un to let U.S. citizen go

By Holly Yan and Jethro Mullen, CNN
May 8, 2013 -- Updated 0935 GMT (1735 HKT)
After a February visit to North Korea that included a basketball outing with Kim Jong Un, former NBA star Dennis Rodman called the country's supreme leader a "friend for life." In May, Rodman <a href='https://twitter.com/dennisrodman' target='_blank'>asked Kim via Twitter to release U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae</a>, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified "hostile acts" against North Korea. Rodman's relationship with Kim is certainly unprecedented, but it's not the first time a celebrity has tried to use the limelight to advocate causes or steer policy. Here are some other celebrities' forays into international diplomacy. After a February visit to North Korea that included a basketball outing with Kim Jong Un, former NBA star Dennis Rodman called the country's supreme leader a "friend for life." In May, Rodman asked Kim via Twitter to release U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified "hostile acts" against North Korea. Rodman's relationship with Kim is certainly unprecedented, but it's not the first time a celebrity has tried to use the limelight to advocate causes or steer policy. Here are some other celebrities' forays into international diplomacy.
HIDE CAPTION
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
Celebrities and diplomacy
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dennis Rodman: "Do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose"
  • Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea for unspecified "hostile acts"
  • His sister says Bae owns a tour company and is not a spy
  • Rodman has called North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un a "friend for life"

(CNN) -- If any American has the power of persuasion over North Korea's defiant young ruler, it might be eccentric ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman.

So when Rodman digitally called for Kim Jong Un to release U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, he may have a shot at a response.

"I'm calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him "Kim", to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose," Rodman tweeted.

Dennis Rodman is North Korean leader's 'friend for life'

Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor last month after he was convicted of unspecified "hostile acts" against North Korea. The country's state-run Korean Central News Agency said the Korean-American was arrested November 3 after arriving as a tourist in Rason City, a northeastern port near the Chinese border.

An Iranian court threw out a 2011 death sentence for Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine charged with spying. But he was secretly retried in Iran and convicted of "practical collaboration with the U.S. government," his sister told CNN on Friday, April 11. He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, she said. Hekmati was detained in August 2011 during a visit to see his grandmother. His family and the Obama administration deny accusations he was spying for the CIA. An Iranian court threw out a 2011 death sentence for Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine charged with spying. But he was secretly retried in Iran and convicted of "practical collaboration with the U.S. government," his sister told CNN on Friday, April 11. He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, she said. Hekmati was detained in August 2011 during a visit to see his grandmother. His family and the Obama administration deny accusations he was spying for the CIA.
Americans detained abroad
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
>
>>
Photos: Americans detained abroad Photos: Americans detained abroad
Sister baffled by North Korea punishment
Rodman reveals North Korea secrets
Rodman: I'm going back to North Korea

Bae's sister, Terri Chung, told CNN's Anderson Cooper last week that her brother is not a spy.

"He has never had any evil intentions against North Korea, or any other country for that matter," Chung said.

She said her brother owns a tour company and was in North Korea for work.

"He didn't have any problems going there last time, last year five times, so he didn't have any reason to suspect that there would be any trouble this time around," she said.

U.S. officials have struggled to establish how exactly Bae fell afoul of North Korean authorities. The North Korean statement on his conviction provided no details of the allegations against him.

"This was somebody who was a tour operator, who has been there in the past and has a visa to go to the North," a senior U.S. official told CNN on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue.

But NK News, a U.S.-based website that focuses on North Korea, suggests Bae has served as a missionary trying to convert North Koreans.

"I knew that Jesus wanted me to be a 'channel' to the North," Bae told a Korean congregation at a St. Louis church in 2011, NK News reported. "This year, I'm working at taking several short term missionary teams into North Korea."

Bae's sentencing came after weeks of intense rhetoric from North Korea, which conducted its third nuclear test in February and launched a satellite into orbit atop a long-range rocket in December.

Washington responded by deploying additional missile interceptors on the West Coast, dispatching a missile defense system to the Pacific territory of Guam and bolstering annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises with overflights by nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers.

Rodman, the heavily pierced NBA Hall of Famer, made headlines when he befriended North Korea's supreme leader during a visit in February.

"You have a friend for life," Rodman told Kim after the two men sat next to each other watching an unusual basketball exhibition in Pyongyang.

But Rodman said he is not an official diplomat between the United States and North Korea.

"I'm not a politician," he tweeted. "Kim Jung Un & North Korean people are basketball fans. I love everyone. Period. End of story."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Experts warn that under Kim Jong Un's rule, Pyongyang has shown an even greater willingness to raise the stakes than before.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
China and North Korea criticize a U.N. report that found crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
Megumi Yokota was only 13 when she was abducted by a North Korean agent in the 1970s. What happened after that?
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 0430 GMT (1230 HKT)
Report: North Korea uses multiple techniques to defy sanctions, and shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear missile programs.
February 21, 2014 -- Updated 0817 GMT (1617 HKT)
Families torn apart for more than 60 years -- separated by the Korean War -- began to reunite at a mountain resort in North Korea Thursday.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
A stunning catalog of torture and the widespread abuse of even the weakest of North Koreans reveal a portrait of a brutal state, the UN reported.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0431 GMT (1231 HKT)
Former prisoners in North Korea describe horrific stories of being tortured by authorities.
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1527 GMT (2327 HKT)
Skiing is not the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the isolated nation, but North Korea's ski resort is world class.
February 8, 2014 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
American Kenneth Bae, who is being held in North Korea, has been moved from a hospital to a labor camp.
January 8, 2014 -- Updated 0213 GMT (1013 HKT)
Why is he being held by North Korea in a prison camp? These are the questions for many since his arrest in the isolated country in 2012.
January 27, 2014 -- Updated 0818 GMT (1618 HKT)
The first time the South Korean factory owner watched his North Korean employees nibble on a Choco Pie, they appeared shocked.
January 8, 2014 -- Updated 0126 GMT (0926 HKT)
Dennis Rodman's "Big Bang in Pyongyang" may be in a league of its own, but other stars too have mixed with repressive regimes before.
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrives in North Korea to train basketball players, state-run media reports.
December 18, 2013 -- Updated 0250 GMT (1050 HKT)
The nation held a memorial in the honor of former North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il on the second anniversary of his death.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
Days after he was removed from his powerful military post, Jang Song Thaek was called a traitor and executed.
ADVERTISEMENT