James ChurchJames Church (pseudonym) is a former Western intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia. He has wandered through Korea for years. No matter what hat he wore, Church says, he often ran across Inspector O of North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security.
Inspector O was the glummest I’d ever seen him. He was sitting at a table in a dark corner of the bar, shoulders slack, head bowed, eyes closed. At first it appeared he might be praying. “What’s wrong, Inspector?” I put a cheery note into my voice. “It’s the New Year. All is fresh and sparkling with hope.” “Shut up, will [...]
“Church, you scoundrel!” The voice boomed across the bar. Each of the patrons had looked up and was staring at me, some annoyed, some bemused at the interruption to the normal solitary quiet of the place. I looked around. In a dark corner, standing and waving, was Inspector O. “My friend!” He beamed. As I walked up, he threw his [...]
(Photo: NASA) In 2006, Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet, failing to meet all the criteria of a (then) newly established definition of planet. These days, some should like to do the same with North Korea, another strange, cold and distant place. Like Pluto, North Korea easily exhausts the quotient for weirdness in our [...]
“I imagine your knuckles would be dead white at this point, Church.” Inspector O had messaged me in the usual way to meet him in Malta. He’d given the address of a hotel restaurant atop a hill overlooking Mdina. I arrived late—bad connections in London—but O didn’t seem to notice. He was gazing contemplatively out the window at the [...]
“I’m surprised.” Inspector O looked up from his newspaper. “Your hair isn’t even mussed.” He made it sound like an indictment. I stood in for a moment wondering what this might portend before sitting down on the bench. The park was deserted. “It says here,” O pointed to an article on an inside page, “that you have been [...]
“You’re fired.” Inspector O pointed his finger at me over the remains of our meal, an early dinner of nameless fish, sautéed carrots and a nearly empty bottle of nondescript wine. “How so?” I asked. “You know perfectly well that I’m not paid, I’ve signed no contract, we have no verbal understanding or even a framework [...]