London, Jan. 5: It is even stranger than Dr Strangelove himself. North Korea, the Stalinist dictatorship that is threatening to plunge the world into nuclear confrontation, has quietly set up a makeshift embassy in Finchley, a north London suburb which was once the home of Peter Sellers.
The diplomatic base — the first that the Pyongyang regime has had in Britain — lies hidden inside a 1930s semi-detached house, a far cry from the grandiose symbolism more often associated with the country’s “Great Leader”, Kim Jong-Il.
The choice of a borough that was previously best known as the former constituency of Lady Thatcher and as the home of the late Sellers, might appear fitting, given the actor’s acclaimed performances in the film Dr Strangelove, in which he played a number of characters — including a demented scientist who conspires with an insane general to start a nuclear war.
It has, however, astounded local residents, who were yesterday coming to terms with the discovery that representatives of one of the world’s most sinister regimes were dwelling on their doorstep just days after Pyongyang incurred the wrath of the US, and attracted worldwide condemnation, for re-starting its nuclear programme.
Brian Fadden, a 29-year-old who lives opposite the Koreans, said: “It’s incredible that the nice man from over the road is a part of the axis of evil. I thought he must own a restaurant because I have seen him carrying in boxes of food. Perhaps he was shipping it home for his family.”
Stella Antoniou, a 43-year-old housewife, who also lives nearby, could scarcely believe who her neighbours were. “I thought they might work somewhere nice because they dress so smartly, but I thought it might be in a nearby office. I hope this does not affect house prices,” she said.
The three-bedroom house in Sandringham Gardens, London N12, which has been rented by the North Koreans for the past year, has pebble-dashed walls and rose and rhododendron bushes in the tiny front garden.
It was initially both a home and an office for two North Koreans, according to the foreign office, although three more comrades arrived in November. The bland appearance of the “embassy” means that there has been little attention from neighbours.
Instead of the satellite dishes and pictures of Korean revolutionary leaders that one might expect to find, there are thick net curtains and sketches of flowers on the walls. This desire for anonymity, coupled, no doubt, with the North Koreans’ traditional instinct for secrecy, was evident last week when an interview was sought with An Son Yong, one of the “ambassadors”.
Wearing casual clothes far removed from the regulation grey Mao jackets still worn by North Korean officials, he politely declined. “I would like to talk to you and ask you inside because it is New Year but there are others in the hierarchy who must be contacted before I can,” he said.