Could North Korea's days as a so-called hermit kingdom be drawing to a close?
Last weekend, media outlets around the world ran a highly unusual story about Kim Jong Un, North Korea's supreme leader, being entertained at a moment of national celebration by a musical performance featuring Mickey Mouse, Snow White, and Winnie the Pooh.
This weekend, media outlets around the world are running a highly unusual story about Ri Yong Ho, the country's top military leader (besides Kim himself, of course), who was axed, bounced, canned, discharged, just plain fired on Sunday.
Here is the full text of the official Korean Central News Agency announcement of the move:
"Ri Yong Ho Relieved of All His Posts in DPRK
"Pyongyang, July 16 (KCNA) -- A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea was held on July 15.
"Present there were members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau and members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee.
"The meeting dealt with the organizational issue.
"It decided to relieve Ri Yong Ho of all his posts including member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau, member of the Political Bureau of the C.C., WPK and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK for his illness."
Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, South Korea, argued the move could be highly significant, telling Bloomberg News: "All high-ranking officials customarily remain in service throughout, regardless [of] sicknesses, and hold their posts until they die. The firing of Ri means the end of the country's hawkish 'military-first' policy putting the troops before any other policy objective, and possibly the beginning of governance more focused on instead improving the economy."
To contact the editor, e-mail: