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A decision to return the ship could only come from the Dear Leader, and the North would do so only in return for a substantial concession. After all, the Pueblo is Pyongyang’s most important symbol of American humiliation. Mr. Egan’s belief that the North Korean regime would hand the ship over to a couple of American unknowns exhibits blinding naivete.

After Mr. Egan and his companion showed up in Pyongyang, they only got to visit the Pueblo as tourists - after paying the normal admission fee! “I fumed all the way back to New York,” he writes, and for a time he refused to talk to Mr. Han, who, he decided, “was just like any other commie. They were all alike - a one-way street.” Mr. Egan eventually got over his disappointment, and the book ends with Mr. Han returning to Pyongyang.

Mr. Egan feels good about his accomplishments, as well he should. The most important message of “Eating with the Enemy” is not that average citizens can easily surmount international political barriers. They cannot. But private people can reach beyond international politics to form enduring human relationships. As did Bobby Egan.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of “Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire” (Xulon).