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The North Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il died on Saturday December 17 due to physical and mental overwork.
The 69-year-old North Korean Leader was on a train on his way to a “field guidance tour” to farms, factories and to the army when he suffered a heart attack that has been fatal to him. A distraught black dressed broadcaster announced his death and said that despite he was treated with “every possible first-aid measure” he couldn’t be saved.
The KCNA reported North Koreans were “writhing in pain” for their leader’s death and the Chinese state television showed people’s tearful reaction to the news in the city of Pyongyang.
Kim Jong-Il had come to power in 1994, when his father, Kim Il-Sung, died struck down by a heart attack at the age of 82, and he ruled the country for 17 years. In 1974, he had been officially named his father’s heir and since the 80’s the Korean government, ruled by the elder Kim, began building a personality cult around him and he was acclaimed as “the great successor to the revolutionary cause”.
Under his long rule, North Korea was closed off to outside influences and led through a devastating famine that contributed to the death of millions of people and for which he also sought international aid. The country has been termed as a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship by several outside organizations, including Freedom House and Amnesty International, and it has also been described as one of the lowest-ranking human rights records of any country in the world. According to Human Rights Watch, the country’s government under Kim Jong-Il was “among the world’s most repressive governments” and North Koreans are “some of the world’s most brutalized people” given that civil liberties and fundamental rights are not guaranteed and strongly restricted. Defectors also reported about tortures, deportation to internment and concentration camps, executions, forced labour, rapes, murders, starvation, and forced abortions and prostitution.
However, it is very hard to have a clear and complete picture of the country’s actual situation because the North Korean government strictly controls the access of foreigners, the media, and the people’s lives and relations.
Kim Jong-Il’s funeral will be held on December 28, but the national mourning period will last until December 29. The KNCN said he will buried next to his father Kim Il-Sung, the “Eternal President”.
Kim Jong-un, the third and youngest son of Kim Jong-Il who started his carreer as Daejang – the equivalent of four-star general – , has been designed as the Great Successor” by the KCNA, which lauded him as “the outstanding leader of our party, army and people”.
The agency also said the country and the people “must faithfully revere respectable comrade Kim Jong-un. At the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un, we have to change sadness to strength and courage and overcome today’s difficulties” and find comfort in the “absolute surety that the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-un will lead and succeed the great task of revolutionary enterprise”.
Kim Jong-un, unlike his father who had 20 years as official heir, became successor by taking on official titles only last year and doesn’t have any political experience. He takes over a heavy inheritance and it has to be seen whether and how he will be able to manage being the leader of the most isolated country of the world. Meanwhile, many countries concern about the future steps of the new North Korea’s leader.