SEATTLE - The family of a Washington man imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp is seething with anger as Dennis Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on Wednesday and led a squad of former NBA stars for a basketball game in Pyongyang.
In a CNN interview, Rodman seemed dismissive of the plight of Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood, who has been imprisoned in North Korea for 14 months. Leaders there won't say why Bae, a former University of Oregon student, is being detained. His health is reportedly deteriorating.
Bae's sister, Terri Chung, told KOMO News she's furious that Dennis Rodman refuses to help her brother and is so dismissive about his continued detainment in the isolated communist country.
As Rodman took to the basketball court Wednesday morning, Chung said the former NBA star is clearly uninformed about Bae or his imprisonment. She's upset that Rodman has refused to help her brother - a subject he danced around during a recent CNN interview.
During that interview, Rodman grew increasingly angry with his interviewer, Chris Cuomo. The exchange went like this:
Rodman: If you understand what Kenneth Bae did, do you understand what he did?
Cuomo: Yeah? What did he do? You tell me. You tell me what did he do?
Rodman: No no no no. You tell me! You tell me! Why is he held captive in this country?
Cuomo: They haven't released any charges. They haven't released any reason. Listen. Listen.
Rodman: Let me do this. I would love to speak on this.
Cuomo: Go ahead.
Rodman: You know, you got 10 guys here -- 10 guys here that have left their families, left their damn families to help this country in the sports venture. We got 10 guys, all these guys here. Do anyone understand that?
Cuomo: We do. And we appreciate that and we wish them well with cultural exchange.
Rodman: Christmas! No, no, no. I'm just saying, no I don't give (bleep). I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think. I'm saying to you! Look at these guys here. Look at them! They came here! They came here!
Cuomo: Don't use them as an excuse for the behavior that you're putting on yourself. You just basically were saying that Kenneth Bae did something wrong. We don't even know what the charges are.
Bae's sister is livid after hearing that interview.
"This isn't some game," she told KOMO News. "I hope that Dennis Rodman remembers that. This is about a person's life, and its heart-wrenching that he has refused to help a fellow American out."
Bae's sister added that Rodman's game is "certainly not diplomacy," and in her words "he's just playing games with my brother's life."
She's not the only one who feels that way. In a recent interview, U.S. Sen. John McCain didn't mince words when asked what he thought about Rodman's actions in North Korea.
"I think he's an idiot," McCain said. "I think he's a person of not great intellect who doesn't understand that he really does provide propaganda for (a) very brutal, ruthless young man while North Koreans are keeping an American in prison and could be endangering his life. ... (Kim Jong Un) runs a gulag of 200,000 people that's full of unspeakable cruelty. And he also has missiles and nuclear weapons. So it isn't a child's game here."