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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: diplomacy

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January 13, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Forget Dennis Rodman’s tearful apology, shift attention to Kenneth Bae

A defiant and visibly emotional Dennis Rodman faced a throng of reporters after landing in Beijing over the weekend.

Watch the CNN video below:

Regardless of his tearful non-apology apology, the former NBA player deserves to stay atop the “loser of the week” list a while longer. That’s what he gets for throwing fellow American Kenneth Bae under the bus. In a ridiculous CNN interview last week, Rodman suggested Bae deserved his 15-year sentence in a North Korean labor camp. Oh, that was just a drunken rant, he later said in a written statement, spurred on by the stress of realizing he’s the only guy in the room defending a brutal dictator.

The Worm’s style of “basketball diplomacy” is about as bad as his attempt to channel Marilyn Monroe’s rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song. But at least the collapse of his latest goodwill efforts will remind the world that Kenneth Bae is experiencing serious health complications under the watch of Kim Jong Un’s prison guards.

Jack Ohman/Op Art

Jack Ohman/Op Art

Lucky for Rodman, Bae’s family in Washington state issued a statement last Thursday accepting his apology:

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Comments | Topics: Dennis Rodman, diplomacy, kenneth bae

January 8, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Kenneth Bae’s sister calls Dennis Rodman’s comments ‘appalling’

Fresh off her appearance on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ Tuesday evening, Terri Chung continued to express frustration over Dennis Rodman’s latest comments about Kenneth Bae, her imprisoned brother in North Korea.

Terri Chung holds a letter sent from her brother, Kenneth Bae, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Lynnwood, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Terri Chung holds up a photo of her brother, Kenneth Bae, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Lynnwood, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In a phone interview afterward, Chung said she was awakened at 4 a.m. to the news of Rodman’s meltdown during his morning appearance with CNN’s Chris Cuomo. (I wrote about that in this Opinion NW blog post.)

“I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe it. It’s one thing for him to say he’s not a diplomat that he’s not going to advocate for Kenneth Bae. He’s refused to help. That’s his choice,” she said. “But then he throws these accusations at Kenneth when he clearly has no clue what he’s talking about. It was appalling and beyond me.”

This 2011 file family photo provided by Terri Chung shows Kenneth Bae. Bae, the latest of several Americans jailed by North Korea in recent years, has already waited longer for his freedom than any of the others had to. But as his health deteriorates, Washington and Pyongyang appear unable to negotiate, each wary of giving concessions to the other. (AP Photo/Courtesy Terri Chung, File)

This 2011 file family photo provided by Terri Chung shows Kenneth Bae.  (AP Photo/Courtesy Terri Chung, File)

Chung said the recent news of political purges and executions in Pyongyang has elevated her concerns for her brother’s safety. The family was able to speak to him on the phone Dec. 29. The 45-year-old tour operator told them he remains hospitalized with severe back problems. Chung says Bae spoke to his children for the first time since his detainment began in November 2012.

“He misses them and he wants to come home,” she said. “I just don’t want Kenneth to be forgotten. And I also don’t want Kenneth to be used as a media story. This isn’t some game. Dennis Rodman can play all the publicity stunts he wants with his own self, but this isn’t a game. This is someone’s life, a father of three who deserves to come home.”

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Comments | Topics: bill richardson, cnn, david stern

December 20, 2013 at 6:05 AM

Dennis Rodman, please don’t forget Kenneth Bae

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.

Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman walks with Vice Minister of North Korea's Sports Ministry, Son Kwang Ho, as Rodman arrives at the international airport in Pyongyang, North Korea on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman walks with Vice Minister of North Korea’s Sports Ministry, Son Kwang Ho, as Rodman arrives at the international airport in Pyongyang, North Korea on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

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.

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Comments | Topics: Dennis Rodman, diplomacy, kenneth bae

October 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM

North Korea should allow prison visits for Kenneth Bae’s mother

Myunghee Bae couldn’t wait any longer. On Wednesday, the 68-year-old mother of imprisoned American Kenneth Bae traveled to Pyongyang on her own.

“She just wanted to see her son,” says Terri Chung, Bae’s sister in Edmonds, Snohomish County.

Terri Chung, left, and her mother, Myunghee Bae, right, look at a letter sent from their brother and son, Kenneth Bae, as they sit in Bae's home Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Lynnwood, Wash. Kenneth Bae, an American tour operator and Christian missionary, has been detained in North Korea since being arrested in November, 2012, and his family is renewing calls for his release as concerns about his health increase. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Terri Chung, left, and her mother, Myunghee Bae, right, look at a letter sent from their brother and son, Kenneth Bae, as they sit in Bae’s home on Aug. 7 in Lynnwood, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

What makes this trip remarkable is that the North Koreans granted Bae permission to enter the country for five days. If they allow prison visits, she will be the first American to see Kenneth Bae since he was detained on Nov. 3, 2012. Last spring, the government sentenced the former tour operator to 15 years of hard labor for “hostile acts” against the regime. In August, Bae was hospitalized after losing nearly 50 pounds and suffering from complications due to an enlarged heart and diabetes.

On Thursday, the family released this video message, recorded before Myunghee left the U.S.:

Again, this is a unique situation following several failed attempts by much higher-profile figures to secure Bae’s release on humanitarian grounds. So far, the North Koreans have rebuffed various pleas from the U.S. State Department, Swedish diplomats, former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and former NBA player Dennis Rodman (via Twitter).

We shouldn’t expect North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un to give in to American demands, but I hope he’ll at least listen to a mother’s plea for her son’s safety. Let her see him. Better yet, let her bring Kenneth Bae home.

Here’s Myunghee Bae’s official statement:

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Comments | Topics: diplomacy, kenneth bae, north korea

July 22, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Kenneth Bae’s latest letters from North Korean prison raise family’s concerns

The strange dearth of media coverage on American prisoner Kenneth Bae got a little boost over the weekend after The New York Times’ Rick Gladstone wrote this July 19 news story indicating the North Koreans may be ready to negotiate for Bae’s release from a hard labor camp.

A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Diplomats who have dealt with North Korea said the unspoken message in both the video and the letters was that the North Korean authorities wanted to see more publicity about Mr. Bae as part of their broader effort to seek direct contact with the United States government.

Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, lives in Edmonds. In a phone conversation with me last Friday, she reiterated her family’s concerns over the Washington native’s health after viewing this July 3 prison video obtained by CNN.

“Even though he’s being treated humanely, his health is clearly deteriorating,” she said. “He’s been there for eight-and-a-half months and we need to do more to get him out.”

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Comments | Topics: Dennis Rodman, diplomacy, kenneth bae

July 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Update: Kenneth Bae pleads for help in prison video

Update 3:01 p.m.:

CNN has obtained exclusive video from Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean organization, showing Kenneth Bae’s first interview from a hard labor camp where he is serving a 15-year sentence for “hostile acts” against the country. In the video, Bae speaks in Korean. CNN translated his comments as follows:

“Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” Bae said. “And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon.”

Kneeling on the ground and wearing a prison uniform, a visibly thinner Bae revealed July 4 is his father’s 70th birthday.

Also, I just learned via Twitter (h/t @randallito) about this change.org petition by Jonathan Bae, who identifies himself as Kenneth Bae’s son. The petition calls on President Barack Obama to send a delegation to North Korea to secure Bae’s release.

Original post:

We can’t seem to get enough of The Worm and his worldly ways. If NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman can use his celebrity to smooth relations with North Korea and secure the release of Lynnwood’s Kenneth Bae during his August trip back to the land of Kim Jung Un— then I say he deserves some serious props for diplomacy.

Of course, Rodman wants more. Have you seen him on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated?

NBA Hall of Fame player Dennis Rodman graces the cover of Sports Illustrated's annual "Where Are They Now" issue. (PHOTO BY CLAY PATRICK MCBRIDE/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED)

NBA Hall of Fame player Dennis Rodman graces the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual “Where Are They Now” issue. (PHOTO BY CLAY PATRICK MCBRIDE/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED)

According to this July 2 preview story by SI correspondent Ben Golliver, the former Chicago Bull says he deserves to be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize after his recent foray into North Korea with a crew from Vice Media. Rodman’s visit was the subject of Vice on HBO’s season finale. (I’ve embedded a fascinating four-minute clip at the end of this post.)

From Golliver’s write-up:

Rodman plans to return to North Korea in August. “I’m just gonna chill, play some basketball and maybe go on vacation with Kim and his family,” Rodman says. “I’ve called on the Supreme Leader to do me a solid by releasing Kenneth Bae.” The Korean-American missionary was recently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges that he tried to topple the North Korean regime. He’d organized tours into the isolated state.

“My mission is to break the ice between hostile countries,” Rodman says. “Why it’s been left to me to smooth things over, I don’t know. Dennis Rodman, of all people. Keeping us safe is really not my job; it’s the black guy’s [Obama's] job. But I’ll tell you this: If I don’t finish in the top three for the next Nobel Peace Prize, something’s seriously wrong.”

It’s great to see Rodman hasn’t forgotten about Kenneth Bae.

By now, many of you know I challenged Rodman to set aside his ego in this May 3 blog post to use his friendship with the North Korean dictator to bring attention to Bae’s plight.

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Comments | Topics: basketball, Dennis Rodman, diplomacy

May 10, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Video: Dennis Rodman tells TMZ he’s ‘gonna try’ to bring Kenneth Bae back from NKorea

Updated 5:52 p.m. The Worm could do us all a solid and simmer down some of his rhetoric. His tweet earlier this week in response to our blog post last Friday has garnered some much-needed attention for Kenneth Bae, the Lynnwood man imprisoned there since last November. However, a new video posted on the gossip…

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Comments | Topics: Dennis Rodman, diplomacy, kenneth bae

May 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Will Kim Jong Un respond to Dennis Rodman’s tweet for Kenneth Bae’s release?

No word yet on whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has read or responded to his American friend Dennis Rodman’s Twitter plea to release Kenneth Bae, but we’re crossing our fingers the NBA legend’s personal efforts at diplomacy will somehow make a difference for the Lynnwood tour operator who’s been imprisoned since last…

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Comments | Topics: Dennis Rodman, detainee, diplomacy