Jeffrey LewisBobby Egan on the North Korean Nuclear Test

I did not think it was possible, but Kim Jong Il might not be the most colorful character in the entire saga of US-DPRK relations. For all the Il-iminator’s quirks and foibles, that title clearly belongs Bobby Egan — BBQ hawker and, in his own description, “Kim Jong Il’s guy in New Jersey”.

Rebecca Mead has a long profile in The New Yorker with this tidbit:

Even more surprisingly, Egan claims that last year, when relations between the U.S. and North Korea appeared to have reached yet another impasse, he counselled the North Koreans to be more demonstrative. “I said, ‘I think you have to bring it up to another level,’ “ he told me. “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.”

For the record, Minister Kim Myong Gil in the North Korean delegation to the UN “said that the idea for North Korea’s recent nuclear test did not originate in Hackensack.”