The world’s toughest regime is starting to look a little warm and fuzzy. First, a country where leaders are normally seen reviewing military parades featuring scary-looking if perhaps not quite finished missiles, showed its new leader at a Mickey Mouse musical review. Then, China’s leaders openly pressed Pyongyang to embrace market reforms amid a bit of buzz that some economic if not political change might be in view. Now, we have a tearful reunion with the man who cooked sushi back when the young Kim was a mere teen in his father’s palace.A remarkable story by Martin Fackler in today’s New York Times tells how a Kenji Fujimoto (not his real name) fled from North Korea after years in the Kim family’s employ, wrote a tell all book after escaping to Japan, and then lived in fear of being abducted or killed in the kind of brutal retaliation for which Pyongyang has become famous. Instead, when regime agents tracked him down in a convenience store, it was to give him an invitation to return for a visit: all is forgiven, was the message.After some (understandable) hesitation, Fujimoto did go back and tells about his reunion with the Kims and his sense of how the North is changing… slowly.Fujimoto is careful not to conclude that the signs he saw of a slightly easier life for the Norks (more people in restaurants. less fearful expressions on faces he passed in the street) mean much or are as true outside Pyongyang. But historically, Pyongyang has often gone out of its way to attract bad publicity, playing up its ‘bad boy’ and rogue nation status, presumably in an effort to frighten off powerful enemies like the US and Japan.That it’s trying a charm offensive, however limited, is interesting, and could signal a new turn in its diplomacy if nothing more. Meanwhile, if anybody in Pyongyang reads Via Meadia: send us an invite, too. I haven’t been to North Korea since 1997 when as a member of the Mercy Corps International Advisory Board I visited the country to see how Mercy Corps food donations were being used. It’s far from clear whether these tentative hints amount to early signs of a thaw, but signs, however tentative, that North Korea is reaching out to show a kinder and gentler side to the world should be carefully checked.