WASHINGTON D.C. – Dennis Rodman said he has been in communication with Kim Jong Un trying to get jailed American Kenneth Bae released, the colorful basketball star told TMZ TV in a spontaneous interview on a Los Angles street Friday.
“I have been trying to get the guy out,” said Rodman, adding he had recently been in communication with Pyongyang regularly. “It will be difficult.”
Saying “I don’t do politics. He is my friend”, Rodman then took a sharp jab at President Obama. “We got a black president who can’t even talk to them. Obama can’t do s**t. I don’t know why he won’t go talk to him.”
Rodman said he was returning to North alone on a private visit August 1. “We can talk about Kenneth Bae when I get over there.”
Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years hard labor last week for alleged anti-government activities and for carrying “propaganda materials” into North Korea, including a copy of a 2007 National Geographic documentary called “Don’t tell my mother I’m in North Korea,’ according to North Korean state media.
North Korea has previously imprisoned American citizens for breaking domestic laws, the most high-profile case being the case of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who illegally crossed the Sino-North Korean border when attempting to speak to refugees.
Their detention resulted in a visit to Pyongyang from former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who eventually secured their release from a sentence of 10 months hard labor.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has visited North Korea three times, securing the release of U.S. prisoner Aijalon Mahli Gomes during his second trip in August 2010. The late Kim Jong Il spurned an opportunity to meet Carter and a visiting Elders Group delegation in April 2010, instead using the occasion to visit China.
Rodman made a plea on his popular twitter account for Bae’s release, following the publication of a Seattle Times editorial calling on him to use his friendship with Kim Jong Un to the prisoner’s advantage.
“Bringing up Rodman in this context might be a stretch, but who else is friendly with King Jong Un these days?” Thahnh Tan of the Washington state-based paper said Friday.
Additional reporting by James Pearson in Seoul and Chad O’Carroll and in London. (Picture: OPENSports)