Dennis Rodman’s third trip to Pyongyang this year should be more than just another publicity stunt. The fact remains: no other American has had this level or frequency of access to the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Once again, we have to hope that in between coaching North Korean basketball players for Kim’s Jan. 8 birthday invitational, Rodman will bend the supreme leader’s ear and mention Kenneth Bae’s name.
Make this “sports diplomacy” outing mean something real.
According to a CBS News report, Rodman was quoted in Beijing on Thursday saying, “I know (Kim) is waiting for me to come back. So hopefully we will have some conversation about some things that’s going to help the world.”
Help the world? How about starting with one guy: Kenneth Bae. If Rodman has a chance to ask for Bae’s humanitarian release, he should take it.
The former Washington resident and tour operator has been imprisoned for more than one year— longer than any other American in recent memory. The details of his alleged crimes have never been fully released by the secretive regime, other than to accuse Bae of “hostile acts” and trying to topple the government. The regime sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor. He was hospitalized over the summer.
Bae’s family, based in Edmonds and Lynnwood, are painfully aware of Rodman’s initial tweet asking Kim to “do him a solid” and to release Bae, followed by his angry assertions that helping the imprisoned American isn’t his job.
With no other avenues before them, Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, appeared on CNN Thursday to ask Rodman to reconsider his role:
“Mr. Rodman, if you’re watching, please do think about this American citizen — a father, a husband, a son, and a brother — who has been imprisoned for 13 months in the DPRK. And while you’re there, to think about him and his family waiting for him to come home for Christmas, and do everything you can to bring him home.”
I don’t know if the man known as Worm during his NBA playing days is listening, but we can’t let Rodman wiggle his way out of Pyongyang again without being reminded that he could be leaving a fellow American behind.
Rodman must do all he can to assist the Bae family. As bizarre as this ongoing storyline has become, he’s likely the only one who can help.
(Here’s a link to the board’s latest editorial on Bae’s imprisonment following North Korea’s decision to release another American detainee named Merrill Newman.)
Watch Chung’s interview below:
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