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For what I’d imagined to be a faceless servant of the Dear Leader, the woman who picks up the phone at the North Korean Embassy is bewilderingly chipper. Are the rumours true, I ask. Is North Korea running a restaurant in Jakarta? “Yes,” she replies. Can just anyone turn up? “Sure.” Are the staff really shipped in from North Korea? Do they really dance for us, in unison, while singing karaoke? “Of course,” she says, her voice sliding into a ribald whine, like a Stalinist bordello madam. “We’ve got pretty, pretty girls.”

For most outsiders, a sta…



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