Pyongyang on the Line

KOREA NEWS SERVICE/AP

Reach out and touch someone: Kim and his generals in 1997

Late one night this summer, an anonymous North Korean slipped across the Tumen River into China. He risked death if collared — but so do all of the desperate souls trying to escape the world's last Stalinist hellhole. What distinguished this man from his compatriots — dozens get across the border every month — was an incredibly rare item that he had stashed in his luggage: a phone book available only to high-ranking North Korean officials.

The identity of the escapee has not been disclosed; it's also unclear how the smuggled phone book ended up in Japan. But...

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