Kim Jong-Il will transfer power to his twenty-something son one day soon, but he's keeping things commie-classic with a new decree declaring that manual labor beats book learning. According to the University World News:
Diplomats in Pyongyang confirmed that students were being drafted into manual labor on the outskirts of the city until April next year to prepare for major celebrations to commemorate the centenary of the late leader Kim Il Sung's birthday. But they said this did not mean the closure of universities.
Apparently foreign students or those working on degrees in (probably) spying, kidnapping Japanese citizens or figuring out why it's so damn dark in Pyongyang at night are exempt if they graduate in the next few months.
But part of the motivation may come from fears of student revolution. Last week someone put a piece of graffito on the wall of a Pyongyang College which called the Dear Leader "a dictator who starved people to death."
For North Korea, this is more or less the equivalent of setting the White House on fire with a Molotov. Pyongyang was locked down (more than usual) for three days in a vain search for the culprit. Hopefully he or she is well-hidden, or followed the seven folks who triggered a border security crackdown when when they defected to the South a few weeks ago, joining the 21,000 other former North Koreans who have had that same great idea since 1953.
In another sign that the Hermit Kingdom can't deny the outside world forever, there are reports that the Associated Press (AP) plans to be the first Western media to open a permanent text and photo bureau in North Korea (they already have a video bureau.) Still unknown is how the AP intends to operate with any journalistic credibility in a country ranked second-to-dead-last in press freedom by Reporters Without Borders.
Reason on the world's most depressing joke/country.