Kim Jong Il, the second-generation North Korean dictator who defied global condemnation to build nuclear weapons while his people starved, has died, state media reported. A government statement called on North Koreans to “loyally follow” his son, Kim Jong Un.
Kim, 70, died on Dec. 17 of exhaustion brought on by a sudden illness while on a domestic train trip, the official Korean Central News Agency said. Kim probably had a stroke in August 2008 and may have also contracted pancreatic cancer, according to South Korean news reports.
The son of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder, Kim was a chain-smoking recluse who ruled for 17 years after coming to power in July 1994 and resisted opening up to the outside world in order to protect his regime.
|Fatboy son Kim Jong Un|
“Kim Jong Il inherited a genius for playing the weak hand and by keeping the major powers nervous, continuing his father’s tradition of turning Korea’s history of subservience on its head,” said Michael Breen, the Seoul-based author of “Kim Jong Il: North Korea’s Dear Leader,” a biography. “We have entered an uncertain moment with North Korea.”
Jong Un, is at the “forefront of the revolution,” KCNA said in its official statement of the elder Kim’s death.
Won, Stocks FallSouth Korea’s won declined as much as 1.6 percent to a two- month low of 1,177.35 and government bonds dropped after the news. The Kospi index lost 4 percent to 1,766.82 as of 12:07 p.m. in Seoul.
“If there’s no confrontation, there’s no significance to weapons,” he told Madeleine Albright, then U.S. secretary of state, in a 2000 meeting in Pyongyang.
Those words took on greater significance in 2009 as Kim defied threats of United Nations sanctions to test a second nuclear device and a ballistic missile, technically capable of striking Alaska.
The following year North Korea lashed out militarily, prompting stern warnings from the U.S. and South Korea. An international investigation blamed Kim’s regime for the March 2010 sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan that killed 46 sailors. Eight months later North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing two soldiers, two civilians and setting homes ablaze. The act followed reports by an American scientist that the country had made “stunning” advances to its uranium-enrichment program.
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