Kim Jong-il’s death was announced early this morning but American intelligence agencies believed North Korea kept the news secret for roughly two days. He was reported to have died of a heart related illness on Saturday while traveling on a train during an official visit outside the capital.
News of his death ended 17 years of rule over the isolated country that his father, Kim Il-sung, founded. “We took every emergency measure we could, but the great leader passed away,” the North Korean statement said.
According to The New York Times, Mr Kim’s death poses a moment of peril for both Washington, the North’s nemesis, and Beijing, its last protector. “We’re entering a period that is especially dangerous,” said Jim Walsh, a professor at M.I.T.’s security studies programs who has met in recent months with several North Korean delegations. The death will also be felt far beyond North Korea’s 24 million population. The country has long been a source of international concern because of its nuclear and missiles programmes and there will be widespread anxiety about potential instability and the implications of the change in leadership.
The dictator was also referred to as the “Dear Leader”, “our Father”, “the General” and “Generalissimo”. His son Kim Jong-un was promoted to a senior position in the ruling Workers’ Party and is heir apparent. In 2010, he was ranked 31st in Forbes Magazine’s List of The World’s Most Powerful People.
A funeral for Kim Jong-il will be held in Pyongyang on 28 December and Kim Jong-un will head the funeral committee, KCNA reports. A period of national mourning has been declared from 17 to 29 December.