North Korea

Dennis Rodman to Visit North Korea, Try to Secure Release of American Prisoner

Returning to visit Kim Jong Un in August


buddy tragicomedy?

Dennis Rodman says he's returning to North Korea in August to visit his friend, the country's totalitarian leader Kim Jong Un. In comments to TMZ, the former Bulls forward suggested his March trip may have led to an easing of tensions, asking whether Kim Jong Un eventually "put the missiles back in storage." North Korea moved its missiles away from their launch sites only this week after a period of heightening tensions. He acknowledged it was "going to be difficult" to secure the release of American prisoner Kenneth Bae, which he called on Twitter for Kim to do earlier this week. He told TMZ the dictator was his friend and "that's about it," pointing out he wasn't a diplomat and blasting  Obama for not talking to Kim himself. The Washington Post's estimation of Rodman's chances of success:

Will it work? The good news is that, in the past, North Korea has used detained Americans as leverage for concessions from the U.S., often in the form of a high-profile American visitor, which is great propaganda for the leadership. The bad news is that, famous though Rodman is, he might not be the right kind of famous.

The Post notes it previously usually took visits from former presidents (Bill Clinton in 2010 and Jimmy Carter in 2011) to get Americans released. It also mentions the case of Robert Park, who before leaving for North Korea asked that no one publicly visit to secure his release. He was arrested in 2009 and eventually let go, but still suffers from being tortured there. Bae, a tour operator, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor this month.