The New Yorker has a truly mind-boggling story in this week’s issue, a story so bizarre we could hardly believe it, even though we’re familiar with the subject. Bobby Egan, the owner of an unremarkable Hackensack meatery named Cubby’s, has become an unofficial liaison with the North Korean government. We expected the piece to be pretty lighthearted, the tale of an unwitting dupe doing PR for Kim Jong Il as if he were the Mayor of West New York. The truth is far weirder, and more chilling: In fact, Egan presents himself as an adviser to the North Koreans on high matters of state.
The brilliance of the article is how it changes depth without calling out to the reader what’s going on. Some parts are just laugh-out-loud inappropriate (“[former National Security Adviser Charles] Pritchard can kiss my big fat uneducated ass,’ he said. ‘The North Koreans are just knock-around guys who need a little insight into what we are really about. They need to know what the Bobby Egans are about, not the intellectuals in Washington.’”) Other parts are actually shocking, such as Egan’s description of his advice to Pyongyang about nuclear weapons:
“I said, ‘Forget all this war rhetoric and all this crap. Don’t blow up a plane, don’t send another submarine to South Korea—don’t do any of that stupid stuff.’ ” Instead, he suggested, the North Koreans should show the Americans exactly what they had. And, in his telling, they listened. “I said, ‘You have them, right? Maybe you should test one. Maybe they have to see it.’ Four or five months later, the Koreans did that nuclear test. I called the Embassy that morning and said, ‘Congratulations, you are in the nuclear club now, boys.’ They were all happy and stuff. I said, ‘Watch the ball start rolling now.’ And it did.”
The article makes you wonder if, in the first Superman movie, Lex Luthor didn’t have the right idea in launching a nuclear missile at Hackensack. At the very least, we are never eating steak at Cubby’s again.
Our Man in Pyongyang [NYer]