Beyond the Kim dynasty, which has ruled North Korea for almost 70 years, the nuclear programme and the propaganda, 25 million Koreans live in the “hermit kingdom”, and they want the same things as anyone else: to give their children the best education possible; to picnic in parks and green spaces; to enjoy fashion and the funfair; to dance, laugh and be merry.
Since my first visit to the country, in 2012, I have returned on several occasions, whenever a new destination has opened up for tourists, or when a tourist itinerary that includes schools, colleges, libraries or science parks (rather than revolutionary sites) has launched. My most recent trip was in September, a few days before Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test.
A visitor to North Korea can see only what their minders permit, but each time I return, I hope to discover everyday life beyond the headlines. I am rarely disappointed.