EUGENE, Ore. - Dennis Rodman sent a tweet calling on North Korea to release former University of Oregon student Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor on accusations of plotting to overthrow the government.
Rodman visited North Korea along with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and a VICE correspondent for a news show on North Korea that will air on HBO later this year, VICE producers told The Associated Press before they landed.
Rodman met with the country's leader Kim Jong Un, who is reportedly a fan of the 1990s Chicago Bulls team on which Rodman played.
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.— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) May 7, 2013
Bae, 44, attend the UO in the late 1980s. He was arrested in early November 2012 in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, according to the North's state media. The exact nature of Bae's alleged crimes has not been revealed.
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.
Former KATU reporter initiates Rodman tweet
Rodman's tweet was in response to a tweet from a former KATU reporter, Thanh Tan. KATU is KVAL's sister station in Portland.
Tan, now at The Seattle Times, tweeted Rodman last Friday, asking him to use his basketball diplomacy skills to ask Un to release Bae. On Tuesday, Rodman responded with his tweet and tweeted Tan: "In direct response to your article headline, 'Ok.' Read your story @uscthanhtan, and I decided to help."
After Rodman's tweet, Tan wrote in her Seattle Times blog that she hoped his tweet would make a difference.
"I don't know what to say, except — thank you, Dennis Rodman. Turns out you have a heart big enough to match the size of that ego," she wrote.
KATU.com staff contributed to this report.