North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dies at 69

December 19th, 20115:29 am @

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dies at 69

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Dead: Kim Jong Il, who became North Korea's leader in 1994, was 69 years old

Dead: Kim Jong Il, who became North Korea’s leader in 1994, was 69 years old

Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s diminutive but ruthless dictator who has led the communist regime since 1994, has died. He was 69.

Kim’s death was announced tonight by state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

In a ‘special broadcast’ today, North Korea’s state media said Kim died of a heart ailment on a train due to a ‘great mental and physical strain’ on Saturday during a ‘high intensity field inspection.’

Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully documented by state media.

The South Korean military declared an emergency alert minutes after news of his death went public.

Traffic in the capital was moving as usual Monday, but the eyes of people in the streets were flooded with tears as they learned the news of Kim’s death.

A foreigner contacted at Pyongyang’s Koryo Hotel said hotel staff were in tears.

Kim’s funeral is slated for December 28 in Pyongyang, with a mourning period to last until December 29.

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Cause of death: Kim Jong Il died while aboard a train on Saturday, and was believed to have suffered some kind of heart ailment stemming from physical and mental exhaustion

Cause of death: Kim Jong Il died while aboard a train on Saturday, and was believed to have suffered some kind of heart ailment stemming from physical and mental exhaustion

The White House said Sunday that President Obama was notified of Kim’s death.

Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement: ‘We are closely monitoring reports that Kim Jong Il is dead.

‘The President has been notified, and we are in close touch with our allies in South Korea and Japan.’

The news came as North Korea prepared for a hereditary succession.

Kim Jong Il inherited power after his father, revered North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994.

In September 2010, Kim Jong Il introduced his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor, placing him in high-ranking posts.

Friendly gesture: Bill Clinton made a surprise visit to meet Kim Jong Il in 2009 to secure the release of two American journalists who were detained in North Korea

Friendly gesture: Bill Clinton made a surprise visit to meet Kim Jong Il in 2009 to secure the release of two American journalists who were detained in North Korea

Kim Jong Il had been groomed for 20 years to lead the communist nation founded by his guerrilla fighter-turned-politician father and built according to the principle of ‘juche,’ or self-reliance.

Even with a successor, there had been some fear among North Korean observers of a behind-the-scenes power struggle or nuclear instability upon the elder Kim’s death.

Few firm facts are available when it comes to North Korea, one of the most isolated countries in the world, and little is clear about the origins of the man known as the ‘Dear Leader.’

North Korean legend has it that Kim was born on Mount Paekdu, one of Korea’s most cherished sites, in 1942, a birth heralded in the heavens by a pair of rainbows and a brilliant new star.

Soviet records, however, indicate he was born in Siberia, in 1941.

Successor: Kim Jong Il's third son Kim Jong Un (right) is expected to take over as the leader of North Korea

Successor: Kim Jong Il’s third son Kim Jong Un (right) is expected to take over as the leader of North Korea

Kim Il Sung, who for years fought for independence from Korea’s colonial ruler, Japan, from a base in Russia, emerged as a communist leader after returning to Korea in 1945 after Japan was defeated in World War II.

WHO’S TAKING OVER THE REGIME?

Kim Jong Un

News of Kim’s death came as North Korea prepared for a
hereditary succession. Kim Jong Il inherited power after his father, revered
North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994.

In September 2010, Kim Jong Il unveiled his third son, the
twenty-something Kim Jong Un (pictured), as his successor, putting him in high-ranking
posts.

As BBC News reports, North Korea’s state-run news agency,
KCNA, urged people to unite behind the younger Kim.

‘All party members, military men and the public should
faithfully follow the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un and protect and further
strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public,’ the news
agency said.

Kim’s marital status was not clear at press time but he is
believed to have married once and had at least three other companions. He had
at least three sons with two women, as well as a daughter by a third.

His eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, 38, is believed to have fallen
out of favour with his father after he was caught trying to enter Japan on a
fake passport in 2001 saying he wanted to visit Disney’s Tokyo resort.

His two other sons by another woman, Kim Jong Chul and Kim
Jong Un, are in their 20s. Their mother reportedly died several years ago

With the peninsula divided between the Soviet-administered north and the U.S.-administered south, Kim rose to power as North Korea’s first leader in 1948 while Syngman Rhee became South Korea’s first president.

The North invaded the South in 1950, sparking a war that would last three years, kill millions of civilians and leave the peninsula divided by a Demilitarized Zone that today remains one of the world’s most heavily fortified.

In the North, Kim Il Sung meshed Stalinist ideology with a cult of personality that encompassed him and his son.

Their portraits hang in every building in North Korea and on the lapels of every dutiful North Korean.

Kim Jong Il, a graduate of Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung University, was 33 when his father anointed him his eventual successor.

Even
before he took over as leader, there were signs the younger Kim would
maintain – and perhaps exceed – his father’s hard-line stance.

South
Korea has accused Kim of masterminding a 1983 bombing that killed 17
South Korean officials visiting Burma, now known as Myanmar.

In
1987, the bombing of a Korean Air Flight killed all 115 people on
board; a North Korean agent who confessed to planting the device said
Kim ordered the downing of the plane himself.

Kim Jong Il took over after his
father died in 1994, eventually taking the posts of chairman of the
National Defense Commission, commander of the Korean People’s Army and
head of the ruling Worker’s Party while his father remained as North
Korea’s ‘eternal president.’

He faithfully carried out his father’s
policy of ‘military first,’ devoting much of the country’s scarce
resources to its troops – even as his people suffered from a prolonged
famine – and built the world’s fifth-largest military.

Kim also sought to build up the
country’s nuclear arms arsenal, which culminated in North Korea’s first
nuclear test explosion, an underground blast conducted in October 2006.

Another test came in 2009.

Leader: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (right) and South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun pose in this 2007 photo during a joint statement in Pyongyang

Leader: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (right) and South Korea’s President Roh Moo-hyun pose in this 2007 photo during a joint statement in Pyongyang

Alarmed, regional leaders negotiated a disarmament-for-aid pact that the North signed in 2007 and began implementing later that year.

However, the process continues to be stalled, even as diplomats work to restart negotiations.

North Korea, long hampered by sanctions and unable to feed its own people, is desperate for aid.

Flooding in the 1990s that destroyed the largely mountainous country’s arable land left millions hungry.

Following the famine, the number of
North Koreans fleeing the country through China rose dramatically, with
many telling tales of hunger, political persecution and rights abuses
that officials in Pyongyang emphatically denied.

Kim
often blamed the U.S. for his country’s troubles and his regime
routinely derides Washington-allied South Korea as a ‘puppet’ of the
Western superpower.

Dictator: Kim Jong Il rose began his reign of the Communist regime after the death of his father Kim Il Sung in 1994

Dictator: Kim Jong Il rose began his reign of the Communist regime after the death of his father Kim Il Sung in 1994

U.S. President George W. Bush, taking
office in 2002, denounced North Korea as a member of an ‘axis of evil’
that also included Iran and Iraq. He later described Kim as a ‘tyrant’
who starved his people so he could build nuclear weapons.

‘Look,
Kim Jong Il is a dangerous person. He’s a man who starves his people.
He’s got huge concentration camps. And… there is concern about his
capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon,’ Bush said in 2005.

Kim
was an enigmatic leader. But defectors from North Korea describe him as
an eloquent and tireless orator, primarily to the military units that
form the base of his support.

Surprise: South Korean soldiers react as they watch a news broadcast reporting the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at the Seoul train station in Seoul, South Korea

Surprise: South Korean soldiers react as they watch a news broadcast reporting the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at the Seoul train station in Seoul, South Korea

The
world’s best glimpse of the man was in 2000, when the liberal South
Korean government’s conciliatory ‘sunshine’ policy toward the North
culminated in the first-ever summit between the two Koreas and followed
with unprecedented inter-Korean cooperation.

‘We are closely monitoring reports that Kim Jong Il is dead. The president has been notified, and we are in close touch with our allies in South Korea and Japan.’

White House statement

A second summit was held in 2007 with South Korea’s Roh Moo-hyun.

But
the thaw in relations drew to a halt in early 2008 when conservative
President Lee Myung-bak took office in Seoul pledging to come down hard
on communist North Korea.

Disputing
accounts that Kim was ‘peculiar,’ former U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright characterized Kim as intelligent and well-informed,
saying the two had wide-ranging discussions during her visits to
Pyongyang when Bill Clinton was U.S. president.

‘I found him very much on top of his brief,’ she said.

Health in doubt: Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully

Health in doubt: Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully

Kim cut a distinctive, if oft ridiculed, figure. Short and pudgy at 5-foot-3, he wore platform shoes and sported a permed bouffant.

His trademark attire of jumpsuits and sunglasses was mocked in such films as Team America: World Police, a 2004 film from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone populated by puppets.

Kim was said to have cultivated wide interests, including professional basketball, cars and foreign films.

He reportedly produced several North Korean films as well, mostly historical epics with an ideological tinge.

Leaders embrace: Amid rumours of his failing health, Kim Jong Il trekked to places like China and Russia, where he met Vladimir Putin in 2002

Leaders embrace: Amid rumours of his failing health, Kim Jong Il trekked to places like China and Russia, where he met Vladimir Putin in 2002

A South Korean film director claimed Kim even kidnapped him and his movie star wife in the late 1970s, spiriting them back to North Korea to make movies for him for a decade before they managed to escape from their North Korean agents during a trip to Austria.

Kim rarely traveled abroad and then only by train because of an alleged fear of flying, once heading all the way by luxury rail car to Moscow, indulging in his taste for fine food along the way.

One account of Kim’s lavish lifestyle came from Konstantin Pulikovsky, a former Russian presidential envoy who wrote the book ‘The Orient Express’ about Kim’s train trip through Russia in July and August 2001.

Memorial: The North Korean national flag atop the country's embassy in Beijing was lowered to half staff to mourn the death of Kim Jong Il

Memorial: The North Korean national flag atop the country’s embassy in Beijing was lowered to half staff to mourn the death of Kim Jong Il

Pulikovsky, who accompanied the North Korean leader, said Kim’s 16-car private train was stocked with crates of French wine. Live lobsters were delivered in advance to stations.

A Japanese cook later claimed he was Kim’s personal sushi chef for a decade, writing that Kim had a wine cellar stocked with 10,000 bottles, and that, in addition to sushi, Kim ate shark’s fin soup – a rare delicacy – weekly.

‘His banquets often started at midnight and lasted until morning. The longest lasted for four days,’ the chef, who goes by the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto, was quoted as saying.

Kim is believed to have curbed his indulgent ways in recent years and looked slimmer in more recent video footage aired by North Korea’s state-run broadcaster.

Kim’s marital status wasn’t clear but he is believed to have married once and had at least three other companions. He had at least three sons with two women, as well as a daughter by a third.

His eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, 38, is believed to have fallen out of favor with his father after he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001 saying he wanted to visit Disney’s Tokyo resort.

His two other sons by another woman, Kim Jong Chul and Kim Jong Un, are in their 20s. Their mother reportedly died several years ago.

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ‘DEAR LEADER’ KIM JONG IL

North Korean legend has it that Kim Jong Il was born on Mount Paekdu, one of Korea’s most cherished sites, in 1942, a birth heralded in the heavens by a pair of rainbows and a brilliant new star.

Soviet records, however, indicate he was born in Siberia, in 1941.

Kim, a graduate of Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung University, was 33 when his father anointed him his eventual successor.

He had been groomed for 20 years to lead the communist nation founded by his guerrilla fighter-turned-politician father, Kim Il Sung, and built according to the principle of ‘juche,’ or self-reliance.

He took over after his father died in 1994, eventually taking the posts of chairman of the National Defense Commission, commander of the Korean People’s Army and head of the ruling Worker’s Party while his father remained as North Korea’s ‘eternal president.’

He faithfully carried out his father’s policy of ‘military first,’ devoting much of the country’s scarce resources to its troops – even as his people suffered from a prolonged famine – and built the world’s fifth-largest military.

Kim also sought to build up the country’s nuclear arms arsenal, which culminated in North Korea’s first nuclear test explosion, an underground blast conducted in October 2006. Another test came in 2009.

Kim was an enigmatic leader. But defectors from North Korea describe him as an eloquent and tireless orator, primarily to the military units that form the base of his support.

The world’s best glimpse of the man was in 2000, when the liberal South Korean government’s conciliatory ‘sunshine’ policy toward the North culminated in the first-ever summit between the two Koreas and followed with unprecedented inter-Korean cooperation.

He cut a distinctive, if oft ridiculed, figure. Short and pudgy at 5-foot-3, he wore platform shoes and sported a permed bouffant. His trademark attire of jumpsuits and sunglasses was mocked in such films as “Team America: World Police,” a movie populated by puppets that was released in 2004.

Kim was said to have cultivated wide interests, including professional basketball, cars and foreign films. He reportedly produced several North Korean films as well, mostly historical epics with an ideological tinge.

Kim rarely traveled abroad and then only by train because of an alleged fear of flying, once heading all the way by luxury rail car to Moscow, indulging in his taste for fine food along the way.

A Japanese cook later claimed he was Kim’s personal sushi chef for a decade, writing that Kim had a wine cellar stocked with 10,000 bottles, and that, in addition to sushi, Kim ate shark’s fin soup – a rare delicacy – weekly.

Kim is believed to have curbed his indulgent ways in recent years and looked slimmer in more recent video footage aired by North Korea’s state-run broadcaster.

His marital status was not clear but he is believed to have married once and had at least three other companions. He had at least three sons with two women, as well as a daughter by a third.

His eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, 38, is believed to have fallen out of favor with his father after he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001 saying he wanted to visit Disney’s Tokyo resort.

His two other sons by another woman, Kim Jong Chul and Kim Jong Un, are in their 20s. Their mother reportedly died several years ago.

Kim Jong Un was unveiled as his father’s eventual successor in September, 2010.

 

Article source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2075987/North-Korean-leader-Kim-Jong-Il-dies-69.html?ITO=1490