SEOUL, South Korea — "The Worm," of all people, is our new 007 in North Korea.
While attending a celebrity party, the US' unofficial ambassador to Pyongyang, Dennis Rodman, told the Miami Herald that he's been in contact with the FBI ever since he visited Pyongyang with an HBO documentary crew in February. But he nonetheless hopes to return in August for another rendezvous with his best friend, Kim Jong Un.
"They wanted to know what went on and who's really in charge in North Korea," he said.
"I'm not a total idiot. I know what Kim Jong Un is threatening to do regarding his military muscle. I hope it doesn't happen because America will take whatever actions to protect America and our allies ... I might be able to keep folks' heads cool. We all going to find a way to get along and keep peace. Peace and love is where it is at, Lesley," he added.
What's also interesting is that the FBI — which is a nationwide law enforcement bureau and not a spy agency — is keeping check on Americans who mingle with foreign enemies like North Korea. That's probably because the CIA can't legally gather intelligence on US soil, although it's been known to cooperate with local police departments in counter-terrorism efforts.
So if you've visited North Korea with one of a handful of foreign tour agencies, could you be on their list?
Adam Cathcart, a North Korea historian who runs the blog SinoNK, told me on Twitter that the Bureau appears to have sought out other Americans who've met with North Korean officials.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, law enforcement also met regularly with Bobby Egan, a New York barbecue restaurant chef who — in circumstances that are still unclear — befriended the former North Korean ambassador to the UN, Han Song Ryol.
Egan recounted in his 2010 memoir, "Eating With the Enemy," that federal agents wanted details on their fishing trips and dinner conversations together. The restaurateur maintains he was trying to introduce the North Korean delegation to the American way of life, opening a potential channel with the reclusive state.
"What's there to be worried about? I only flip burgers for a living," he recounted telling an FBI agent, according to a video interview on his website.
"No, you're developing a very serious relationship with the North Korean government, and we need to know everything you're talking about," Edan recalled the officer retorting.
Three years later, what's there to be worried about with Rodman's visit? After all, he only plays basketball for a living.