- (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)
Dennis Rodman traveled on Tuesday to North Korea to meet up with leader King Jong-un, revealing that he is hoping to "bridge the gap" between America and the Pacific nation, but is not planning to bring up the case of imprisoned U.S. Christian Kenneth Bae.
"I just want to meet my friend Kim, the marshal, and start a basketball league over there or something like that," Rodman said before departing, according to The Associated Press. "I have not been promised anything. I am just going there as a friendly gesture."
The former NBA star has attracted a great deal of controversy for his friendship with Kim, whom he has visited in North Korea before for an exhibition basketball game. In previous interviews, Rodman had said that he would try and convince Kim to release Kenneth Bae, the imprisoned U.S. citizen who was sentenced earlier this year to 15 years of hard labor, supposedly for plots he had made against the government.
When asked about the situation now, Rodman said that he was not "going to talk about that" with Kim.
"I'm not there to be a diplomat. I'm there to go there and just have a good time, sit with (Kim) and his family, and that's pretty much it," Rodman explained.
Bae's family in the U.S. have been pleading for the U.S. government to pressure North Korea into releasing the former tour guide, with his sister, Terri Chung, revealing that he is suffering from a number of health problems and is being forced to work for eight hours each day six days a week. She also noted that Bae's imprisonment might have more to do with his Christian faith, which is routinely persecuted in North Korea.
The U.S. State Department has taken some action on the case, and has said that it is sending a special envoy to North Korea in hopes of freeing the U.S. citizen, who is a father of three.
"We remain deeply concerned about the health and welfare of Kenneth Bae, the American citizen currently detained in North Korea," the State Department's statement read. "We urge the government of North Korea to grant special clemency to Mr. Bae immediately and allow him to return home with Ambassador King."
Rodman, whose friendship with Kim was largely formed because the latter is a basketball fan, insisted that despite long-held tensions, Americans and North Koreans can work together.
"I'm just going over there to have a good time and try to bridge the gap with Americans and North Koreans," the former NBA star said. "Just let's let people see in America that it's not a bad thing to go to North Korea and have a good time and meet new people."