North Korea was labelled by Washington as one of the world's "rogue states".
Its image is one of gulags, famine, out-dated Stalinism and a megalomaniac cult of its leadership.
But what about the people who live under such a regime?
In this series, Tony Pletts goes on a bizarre holiday in what is usually counted as one of the most isolated, mysterious and paranoid nations.
His guide is Nicholas Bonner, a landscape architect from Cheshire who has become North Korea's leading tour operator, and who for over a decade has been charming both the steely authorities of Pyongyang and his adventure hungry customers.