An American imprisoned in North Korea for more than two and a half years owes his release and return to the United States to Dennis Rodman, if the former NBA star is to be believed.
TMZ reports that the self-appointed diplomat is taking credit for a crucial role in the release of Kenneth Bae, who was set free along with fellow captive Matthew Miller on Saturday — though the more plausible explanation might be intervention on the part of U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
According to the report, Rodman says he begged Kim Jong Un for the release of Bae, who had been serving 15 years of hard labor for unspecified acts while in North Korea as a tour guide and missionary. The former athlete said he sent a letter to the dictator in January after a trip to the secretive nation.
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In the letter, Rodman states, "I understand the crimes (Bae) committed, and ask you my dear friend, the highly respected Marshall Kim Jong Un for his release to show my country how loving and compassionate you and the DPRK can be."
Rodman continues, "I ask for your mercy to prisoner Kenneth Bae and would be eternally grateful for his safe return and make a big step towards bridging the gap between our two nations."
Rodman said he did not receive a response to the letter, though he came under criticism in America at the time for asserting Bae’s guilt. However, North Korea released a video of Bae several days later, which at the very least qualifies as quite the coincidence.
"No doubt, our trips helped influence Kenneth Bae’s release and I’m happy he is coming home safely," Rodman told TMZ.
Rodman traveled to North Korea in February 2013 to promote basketball exhibition games. While there, he met Kim and was photographed with the dictator, whom he referred to as "a friend for life." In May of that year he tweeted a request to Kim for Bae’s release, and Rodman returned to Korea in September 2013.