Who is Kenneth Bae, and why is he in a North Korean prison camp?

Updated 9:13 PM EST, Tue January 7, 2014

Story highlights

Kenneth Bae's sister says Rodman was in a position to do some good and refused

Bae, 44, of Lynwood, Washington, was arrested in North Korea in 2012

He was convicted by North Korea of "hostile acts'' in 2013

Bae was sentenced to 15 years' hard labor

CNN —  

Who is Kenneth Bae? And why is he being held by North Korea?

Those are the questions for many following the combative exchange Tuesday between Dennis Rodman and Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “New Day,” who asked whether the former NBA player was planning to inquire about Bae, a U.S. citizen sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp.

In response, Rodman, who is in North Korea with a team of fellow former NBA players, suggested the Korean-American had done something wrong, but did not specify what.

“Do you understand what he did in this country?” Rodman asked Cuomo. “No, no, no, you tell me, you tell me. Why is he held captive here in this country, why?”

Here’s a look at the case:

Who is Bae?

Born in South Korea, Bae immigrated at age 16 to the United States with his parents, his mother told CNN.

The 44-year-old Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, moved to China in 2005. A year later he established “Nations Tour,” a China-based tour company that specialized in tours of North Korea, according to his family and freekennow.com, a website established by friends to promote his release.

Described by his sister, Terri Chung, as a devout Christian, Bae is married and the father of three children.

“Several years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian,” the website said. “He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism.”

Bae had guided at least 15 tour groups, mostly made up of Americans and Canadians, into North Korea at the time of his arrest, his family has said.

What happened?

This much everybody appears to agree on: Bae was on the first day of a five-day tour when he was arrested November 3, 2012, in Rason, an area along the northeastern coast of North Korea that has been established by Pyongyang as a special economic zone to promote trade and investment.

U.S. officials have struggled to establish how exactly Bae ran afoul of North Korean authorities.