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“There is nothing particularly subversive about Mickey Mouse,” he said, noting that most children’s clothing and toys in North Korea are imported from China. “And the Chinese do not have any hesitation about putting Mickey everywhere.”

“Could be he just really likes Disney,” Mr. Bennett said. “Maybe he’s trying to tell the world that he can copy whatever [intellectual property] he pleases.”

The Walt Disney Co. said it did not authorize the use of its trademarked costumes or the broadcast of clips from its movies that were played at the concert.

Mr. Lankov said the succession of signals showed that “some changes are going to happen,” but he cautioned it is “way too early” to know what exactly.

“It’s a significant change,” Mr. Bennett said, “but we don’t fully know what the message is.”