North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, 69, died Saturday according to a state media announcement.
According to Monday’s broadcast, Kim died on Saturday as a result of a massive heart attack. State media said that an autopsy has already been performed which confirmed cause of death as heart failure.
In September of 2010, Kim revealed his third son, Kim Jong Un, had been chosen as his successor. The announcement sparked debate regarding Kim’s health and possible intention to step down as controversial leader of North Korea. But he did not step down and on recent trips to China and Russia Kim Jong Il appeared in decent health. Though it is believed he had a stroke in 2008 and suffered from diabetes and heart disease.
Known as North Korea’s “Dear Leader,” Kim followed the tenets of governing originated by his father, Kim Il Sung. Sung created a government based on Stalinist ideals mixed with a cult like aspect which saw portraits of himself and his son hanging in all public buildings. He also believed in the ‘military first’ philosophy, building up the world’s fifth largest army while his people starved through an extended famine.
Kim Jong Il also presided over North Korea’s first nuclear arms test in 2006. Another test in 2009 resulted in U.N. sanctions and a disarmament agreement was reached, but has never been fully carried out.
The sanctions, Kim’s focus on military of populace and rampant flooding throughout the country on the 1990s have reportedly made North Korea unlivable. Waves of refugees leave the country and bring with them stories of famine and human rights violations and atrocities, all of which Kim Jong Il denied. In fact, he was known for blaming his country’s woes on other nations, the United States in particular.
With Kim’s passing, there is great concern about the stability of the Korean Peninsula. Leaders in the U.S., Japan and China especially are said to be watching the situation carefully.
The White House said Sunday night that President Barack Obama was monitoring reports and had been in touch with allies in South Korea and Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told ministers in his country to be ready for the unexpected. The South Korean Military has been put on high alert and President Lee Myung-bak convened a meeting of the national security council when news of Kim Jong Il’s death broke.