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New Jersey Restaurant Owner’s “Barbecue Diplomacy”

Posted October. 02, 2007 03:05,   

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Robert Egan, who says he is “Kim Jong Il’s guy in New Jersey,” runs Cubby’s, a barbecue restaurant in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Indeed, Egan has served as an “unofficial ambassador to North Korea” for the last 15 years, by intermediating between the U.S. and DPRK governments and even running “errands” for the two countries.

New Yorker magazine’s latest issue (October 8) described Egan’s experiences while visiting Pyongyang five times and his efforts to improve the U.S.-DPRK relationship in a report titled, “Our Man in Pyongyang: Bobby Egan’s barbecue diplomacy.”

Egan first traveled to North Korea in 1994 to provide humanitarian aid after the North suffered flood damage. At that time, he felt something special about the strange country. He had visited Hanoi in Vietnam and many villages in Laos, but he had never seen a place as isolated as North Korea.

He kept brotherhood-like close ties with Han Song Ryol, former Deputy Permanent Representative of the DPRK to the United Nations. When Han admitted that he had a toothache, Egan sent him to an oral surgeon so that he could get implants.

Egan, who recently paid a visit again to Pyongyang for humanitarian aid purposes, earned unofficial titles such as “chairman of the U.S.-DPRK Chamber of Commerce.” He said North Koreans gave him the titles for his activities in the communist country.

Egan, however, has never thought about living in North Korea. He said that he could be somebody in North Korea, but that he prefers life in the U.S.



spear@donga.com