State Dept. to Dennis Rodman: Is Kim Jong Un running the country?

Dennis Rodman promises to ask for Kenneth Bae's release
August 29th, 2013

The U.S. State Department wants to know if Kim Jong Un is ruling North Korea, Dennis Rodman said on Wednesday, hinting to the Huffington Post that he would soon be returning to North Korea.

Rodman’s comments cleared up months of speculation over whether or not U.S. authorities had debriefed the former NBA star after his April visit to North Korea.

“Pretty much they just said, do you think Kim’s running the country…the Marshal, do you think he’s running the country?” Rodman said of State’s questions surrounding his meeting with Kim Jong Un.

“You know they want me to sit there and say all these things, you know ‘What did you see?’… And I saw one thing: a bunch of liquor, a bunch of girls,” Rodman explained.


Dennis Rodman indicated to presenter Marc Lamont Hill that he plans to visit Kim Jong Un in North Korea soon, and promised to personally raise the issue of imprisoned U.S. national Kenneth Bae.

Asked when he last spoke to the North Korean leader, Rodman said, “I gave [Kim Jong Un] a great indication of when I’m going to Beijing soon – that’s just a hop, skip and a jump from North Korea. So basically, you know, I’m pretty sure I’ll be talking to [Kim] soon.”

“I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae’s release,” he continued. “I will say, ‘Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?’ I could try and soften it up in that way.”

“If the Marshal says, ‘Dennis, you know, do you want me to let him loose?’ and then if I actually got him loose – and I’m just saying this out the blue – I’d be the most powerful guy in the world,” declared Rodman.

However, Rodman distanced himself from a Tweet calling for Bae’s release sent from his account in May, claiming it was actually posted by a member of his “team.”

“When I saw that I got pissed,” he insisted. “I said I’m not a diplomat… I had nothing to do with that one”.


Rodman’s comments on returning to North Korea and Bae come less than 24 hours before U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean human rights Ambassador Bob King is scheduled to touch down in Pyongyang for 48 hours of negotiations concerning Bae.

According to the State Department, King will request freedom and a pardon for 45-year-old Bae during his visit, but warns that Pyongyang had given no guarantees of his release.

Rodman’s personal relationship with the North Korean leader could pay dividends if it bears fruit with Bae, but could potentially embarrass the U.S., if the visiting Special Envoy comes back empty-handed.

However, Curtis Melvin, a DPRK expert based in Washington D.C., says he thinks it would be unlikely for North Korea to hand Bae over to Rodman over Ambassador King.

“North Korea has been using Mr. Bae as a tool for engaging the US government. Other than snubbing the State Department and the White House, which does not seem to be a policy priority of the DPRK at the moment, there is little to be gained by handing him over to Mr. Rodman.

“Dealing with Amb. King on the other hand opens more doors to future benefits.

“Dennis Rodman’s visit will be used this time the same way it was managed last time, as a domestic propaganda tool of the regime,” Melvin added.


Rodman’s comments come on the heels of a Chosun Ilbo report, which claims Kim Jong Un’s ex-girlfriend, singer Hyon Song Wol, “was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad on Aug. 20.”

Kim, who apparently dated Hyon about a decade ago–and was ordered to break off the relationship by his father, Kim Jong Il–was rumored to have continued carrying on an affair with the Ponchonbo Electronic Ensemble vocalist.

Nonetheless, sources in China told the paper that Hyon and the others, reportedly caught making sex tapes and possessing bibles, “were executed with machine guns while the key members of the Unhasu Orchestra, Wangjaesan Light Band and Moranbong Band as well as the families of the victims looked on.”

When asked by HuffPo Live’s Mark Lamont Hill about the veracity of said report, Rodman answered: “But, does it actually say he did it? Did he order the hit? Did he order anything like that? Because, I don’t really think, every time you see him on TV, he’s never talking. He’s never said a word. I mean, it’s like allegations with anything, anything in the world.”

“He’s just a friend of mine,” Rodman said. “We talk, and that’s it. I don’t worry about what he does.”

Rodman visited North Korea in April 2013 and became the first American to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. His visit was part of a Vice TV documentary that focused on sports diplomacy practiced by the Harlem Globetrotters.

Additional reporting by Justin Rohrlich, New York City

Picture: Huffington Post Live

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About the Author

Chad O'Carroll

Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.