When a South Korean defector takes the reins of North Korea, the world teeters on the edge of a nuclear abyss. The only man all parties will agree to lead the negotiations is the man who doesn’t want the job—former American diplomat Richard Matthews. And someone at the table wants the negotiations to fail. Can Richard unmask the Judas in time?
He boarded the train, making his way toward the “hard” or cheap seats. Though padded and upholstered, the seat would feel very hard indeed on his long journey. He settled in and opened the newspaper he had purchased on his trip across the city. He kept his small pack, holding only three shirts, a second pair of trousers, and three sets of underwear and socks, on his lap. The light jacket he wore, he knew, would not be adequate for long when he arrived at his destination.
The train jerked several times as each car submitted to the pull of the engines. Slowly the momentum smoothed and picked up speed. The car rocked him to sleep somewhere along the dark journey north and east into the countryside. Thin morning sunlight nudged him awake as the train began to slow. Ahead, around a slight bend in the track, he could see the bridge across the Yalu, with Antung, China, on this side and Sinuiju, North Korea, on the other. Although his stomach tightened, he forced his demeanor to remain calm.
The train stopped to allow the North Korean border guards to enter. Thin, young, and stern-faced, they scrutinized the passengers as if they expected each to be a notorious international criminal. He supposed they would receive a medal and parade for shooting one. He blinked and placed his Chinese passport and papers in hand. The guards passed him by with just a cursory glance at the documents. Thanking God for his part-Chinese North Korean grandmother, he stared out the window at the brown early winter landscape while they completed their review of the car. Finally, the train began to move again. Another thirty minutes and the train stopped at Sunchon, North Korea.
Standing up, unobtrusively stretching stiff muscles, he put the Chinese papers in the backpack, and drew his real passport from his jacket. He stepped off the train under the watchful eye of still more soldiers. Without looking at them, he entered the station and found the office of the station master.
“May I help you?” a thin young woman looked up from her desk.
“Yes, please,” he answered quietly. “I have a matter I would like to discuss with the station master.”
“What is the nature of your business?” she barked.
“Please, just give him this.” He handed her his passport. “I think then he will see me.”
She opened the passport, poised to dismiss him and hand it back, but instead spun around for her boss’s office. Seconds later, she returned. “He will see you now.”
“Thank you.” He had barely entered the office, the door still closing, when he heard her pick up the phone and request soldiers. He stepped toward the desk, where the station master glanced from his passport to his face and back to the passport.
“You are Chung Hee Yu, South Korean cabinet minister?”
“Why are you here?”
Chung Hee met the man’s gaze. “I wish to defect.”
In nearly 35 years with a state agency, I travelled across the state and country, working with government policy makers, and trying to preserve our natural environment for generations. My Army son as a linguist worked to return our MIAs from Vietnam. These experiences appear in my writing.