Rodman blames stress and drinking for Kenneth Bae comments

Thursday 09 January 2014 22.54
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Dennis Rodman (right) says he is friends with the North Korean dictator
Dennis Rodman (right) says he is friends with the North Korean dictator
A man shows a North Korean newspaper as he arrives at Beijing's international airport from North Korea
A man shows a North Korean newspaper as he arrives at Beijing's international airport from North Korea

Retired US basketball star Dennis Rodman has apologised for suggesting that an American jailed by North Korea was himself to blame for landing in prison.

Mr Rodman said he was upset when he made the comments and had been drinking.

Rodman, who calls himself a friend of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, caused a furore with his comments on Kenneth Bae, an American missionary imprisoned by the North Korean government.

Rodman is visiting North Korea with a group of fellow US basketball players.

"I want to apologise. I take full responsibility for my actions, Rodman said in a statement issued by his American publicist.

"It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates," Rodman said.

"My dreams of basketball diplomacy were quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed."

He added: "I embarrassed a lot of people. I'm very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry."

Rodman's current visit to North Korea, his fourth, has drawn criticism from human rights activists and Bae's family after he appeared to suggest in an interview peppered with obscenities that Bae, rather than the North Korean authorities, was responsible for his incarceration.

Bae's sister, Terri Chung, has said her family was outraged by Rodman's comments and that he should use his access to the North Korean leader to advocate on Bae's behalf, rather than "hurl outrageous accusations".

"It is clear to me, however, that there is nothing diplomatic about his trip," she said in a statement earlier today.

"He is playing games with my brother's life."

But Ms Chung later issued a separate statement saying that her family had accepted Rodman's apology.

"As Rodman has stated, being drunk and stressed is not an excuse for what he said, but we acknowledge he is human and we all do make mistakes," Ms Chung said.

"Our greatest concern remains the health and freedom of my brother Kenneth," she added.

"We hope and pray that Rodman's comments and ongoing antics have not further endangered my brother. Kenneth's health and freedom are precarious."

Bae, 45, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for state subversion in North Korea, where he was detained in 2012 while leading a tour group.

North Korea's Supreme Court said he used his tourism business to form groups aimed at overthrowing the government.