Seclusion from the world has long been a guiding principle for the rulers of North Korea, a secretive hereditary dictatorship. Kim Jong Un, the current despot, took isolation to a new level during the covid-19 pandemic. The border with China was slammed shut, with the construction of a new border fence and shoot-to-kill orders against anyone attempting to cross. Travel to North Korea, already a niche pursuit at best, ceased completely. Foreign diplomats, aid workers and businesspeople left the country in droves. In contrast to other parts of the world, the shutdown continued after the pandemic. Until this week, the only people thought to have officially entered North Korea in nearly three and a half years were the Chinese ambassador and a handful of his staff.