This is the first installment of a three-part series.

Can North Korea’s regime de-prioritize the building of a nuclear arsenal and refocus on improving its dismal economy?

The consensus view is: “Not as long as the Kims are in power. They care only about the survival of their dynasty – thus their lust for nukes – and don’t mind if their subjects go hungry.”

For one Pyongyang watcher, however, hope springs eternal. Offered the right deal with the right timing, he insists, the regime can turn around.

For decades, Colin McAskill, who can claim to be North Korea’s most steadfast long-haul business partner, has been working toward just that.

Currently, the 81-year-old London businessman is in the midst of a years-long dry spell, during which international sanctions have barred him from pursuing any commercial deals. He has not visited North Korea since 2015.