North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, 69, has died

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011

SEOUL, South Korea -- Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic leader, has died. He was 69.

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

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 leader, reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.

He has already designated his son, Kim Jong-un, as his heir apparent. The Dear Leader took over the reigns in North Korea sometime between 1992 and 1994 after the death of his father, Kim Il-sung, who had ruled the country for 46 years.

The Kims seem poised to extend their more than 60-year dictatorial dynasty, but North Korean politics has long been shrouded in misinformation and mystery to the rest of the world. It is worth noting that many of the conditions that sparked the recent uprisings in the Mideast, like mass poverty and rampant corruption, exist in North Korea. That said, dissent is apparently crushed so thoroughly, it is hard to imagine any real democratic reforms in the The Democratic People's Republic of Korea anytime soon.

(Copyright 2011, The Associated Press)

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