The sister of American citizen Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who is imprisoned in North Korea, is speaking out about former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s recent comments about her brother.
Rodman, along with a team that includes several other former NBA players, visited the communist nation to take part in an exhibition basketball game against a North Korean team on Wednesday in celebration of dictator Kim Jong Un’s birthday.
In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Rodman became agitated after interviewer Chris Cuomo asked if he intended to discuss Bae with North Korean leaders during the visit. Rodman also seemed to insinuate that Bae had done something deserving of his imprisonment, though he did not get into specifics.
“Kenneth Bae did one thing,” Rodman said in the CNN interview. “If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did in this country? No, no, no, you tell me, you tell me. Why is he held captive here in this country, why? … I would love to speak on this.”
Terri Chung, Bae’s sister, told Q13 FOX News that she had hoped one of the NBA stars visiting the nation would ask for her brother’s amnesty, but instead Rodman spewed “outrageous accusations” against him.
“It’s one thing to play games with his own image, but this is not a game, this is a man’s life,” Chung told the station.
She added: “He has refused to help, that’s his choice, but instead he has chosen to make these outrageous accusations that he clearly doesn’t know anything about.”
Bae, a Christian missionary who previously led tours from China into North Korea, was arrested in November 2012 for allegedly plotting against the North Korean government. He was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, and has reportedly suffered from a number of health-related problems since his imprisonment.
Charles Smith, a former NBA player who went to North Korea with Rodman, told The Associated Press he regrets going to Pyongyang, the nation’s capital, to participate in the game. He says the team’s intentions were positive, but government and political issues have overshadowed their message.
He also criticized the way Rodman conducted himself in interviews about the visit.
“The way some of the statements and things that Dennis has said has tainted our efforts,” Smith told AP. “Dennis is a great guy, but how he articulates what goes on – he gets emotional and he says things that he’ll apologize for later.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern and the National Basketball Retired Players Association have also released statements distancing their organizations from Rodman and his team.
“While we support international goodwill and diplomacy in instances deemed appropriate by our Board of Directors, it is important to clarify that the trip to North Korea led by Dennis Rodman and others was not sanctioned by the NBRPA and is not supported by our organization in any way,” said NBRPA Chairman of the Board Otis Birdsong in a statement.
“Under the right circumstances basketball can serve as a bridge to bring communities together, but these are not those circumstances. Standing alongside our partners at the NBA, we do not condone the basketball activities to be conducted in North Korea this week.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that he had not seen Rodman’s CNN interview, but stated that the administration has not changed its views on Bae’s situation.
“We want to see him released,” said Carney. “We remain gravely concerned about his health and continue to urge North Korean authorities to grant him amnesty and immediate release.”
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