Rodman urges Kim Jong-Un to free Lynnwood, Wash. man

May 7, 2013

NBA star Dennis Rodman, who recently made waves with his visit to North Korea, has called on the country’s leader to free the American man being held captive.

“I'm calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him 'Kim', to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose,” Rodman tweeted Tuesday.

Bae, 44, of Lynnwood, Wash., was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, according to the North's state media.

He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by North Korea’s Supreme Court last month for allegedly attempting to overthrow the regime.

Pyongyang has rejected speculation that it intends to use Kenneth Bae as a bargaining chip. In remarks carried by state media, an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman did not specify the Washington state man's crimes but said he confessed. He said Bae entered North Korea "with a disguised identity in an intentional way under the back-stage manipulation of the forces hostile toward" the country.

Friends say Bae is a devout Christian and tour operator based in China who traveled frequently to North Korea to feed orphans. Six other Americans have been detained in North Korea since 2009; they eventually were deported or released, some after trips by prominent Americans including Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

The North Korean spokesman dismissed as "ridiculous and wrong" speculation by foreign media that Pyongyang intends to use Bae as a bargaining chip. He said the "generosity" the country showed in past cases "will be of no use in ending Americans' illegal acts."

North Korea "has no plan to invite anyone of the U.S. as regards Pae's issue," the spokesman said. Pyongyang refers to Bae as Pae Jun Ho, the North Korean spelling for his Korean name.

Bae's sentencing last week came as tension remains on the Korean Peninsula following weeks of warlike rhetoric from Pyongyang and threats to attack the U.S. and South Korea. The U.S. has called for the North to grant amnesty and immediately release Bae.

The U.S. and North Korea officially remain at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.