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Kim Jong-il Dead at 69

Posted: December 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: News, North Korea, Revolute | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Kim Jong-il Dead at 69

KOREA-KIM-JONG-IL-AUGUST-2011North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, revered at home by a propaganda machine that turned him into a demi-God and vilified in the West as a temperamental tyrant with a nuclear arsenal, has died, state television reported. Kim, who was 69 years old, died on Saturday, it said. Kim was the unchallenged head of the oppressive state whose economy fell deeper into poverty during his years in power.

Kim vexed the world by developing a nuclear arms program and an arsenal of missiles aimed to hit neighbours Japan and South Korea, while at home, his people suffered the degradation of near starvation. Kim had been portrayed as a criminal mastermind behind deadly bombings, a jovial dinner host, a comic buffoon in Hollywood movies and by the administration of former US president George W Bush as the ruler of “an outpost of tyranny”.

In August 2008 Kim suffered a stroke, but was thought to have recovered. It si believed his death was due to a heart attack, though North Korean Media is reporting that his death was due to fatigue.

Known at home as “the Dear Leader”, Kim took over North Korea in 1994 when his father and founder of the reclusive state Kim Il-sung, known as “the Great Leader”, died ::::

Kim Jong-il 2008

Kim, famed for his bouffant hairdo, platform shoes and jump suits, slowly emerged from his father’s shadows to become one of the world’s most enigmatic leaders who put North Korea on the path of becoming a nuclear power.

His state was also frequently cited as a threat to global stability. Despite being on the world stage longer than most world leaders, little was known about Kim.

He rarely spoke in public, almost never travelled abroad and has an official biography that is steeped in propaganda but lacking in concrete substance.

Kim had a host of titles in North Korea, but president was not one of them.

Kim Il-sung was given the posthumous title of president for life, while his son’s most powerful posts included the chairman of the National Defence Commission, the real centre of power in North Korea, and Supreme Commander of the Korea People’s Army.

North Korean propaganda said Kim Jong-il was born on February 16, 1942, at a secret camp for rebel fighters led by his father near Korea’s famed Mount Paektu. But analysts say he was likely born in the Soviet Union when his father was with other Korean communist exiles receiving military and other training.

His official biography said that in elementary school he showed his revolutionary spirit by leading marches to battlefields where Korean rebels fought against Japanese occupiers of the peninsula.

By the time he was in middle school he had shown himself to be an exemplary factory worker who could repair trucks and electric motors.

He went to Kim Il-sung University where he studied the great works of Communist thinkers as well as his father’s revolutionary theory, in a systematic way, state propaganda said.

North Korea analysts said however, Kim lived a life of privilege in the capital, Pyongyang, when his family returned to the divided peninsula in 1945.

The Soviets later installed Kim Il-sung as the new leader of North Korea and the family lived in a Pyongyang mansion formerly occupied by a Japanese officer.

Kim’s younger brother mysteriously drowned in a pool at the residence in 1947.

Kim likely spent many of his younger years in China to receive an education and to keep him safe during the 1950-1953 Korean War, analysts said.

After graduating from college, Kim joined the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea in 1964 and quickly rose through its ranks. By 1973, he was the party’s secretary of organisation and propaganda, and in 1974 his father anointed him as his successor.

Kim gradually increased his power in domestic affairs over the following years and his control within the ruling party greatly increased when the younger Kim was given senior posts in the Politburo and Military Commission in 1980.

Intelligence experts say Kim ordered a 1983 bombing in Myanmar that killed 17 senior South Korean officials and the destruction of a Korean Air jetliner in 1987 that killed 115.

He is also suspected of devising plans to raise cash by kidnapping Japanese, dealing drugs through North Korean embassies and turning the country into a major producer of counterfeit currency.

Kim was known as a womaniser, a drinker and a movie buff, according to those people who had been in close contact with him and later left the country.

He enjoyed ogling Russian dancing girls, amassing a wine cellar with more than 10,000 bottles and downing massive amounts of lobster and cognac.

North Korea’s propaganda machine painted a much more different picture.

It said Kim piloted jet fighters – even though he travelled by land for his infrequent trips abroad. He penned operas, had a photographic memory, produced movies and accomplished a feat unmatched in the annals of professional golf, shooting 11 holes-in-one on the first round he ever played.

When he first took power in 1994, many analysts thought Kim’s term as North Korea’s leader would be short-lived and powerful elements in the military would rise up to take control of the state.

The already anaemic economy was in a shambles due to the end of the Cold War and the loss of traditional trading partners.

Poor harvests and floods led to about 1 million people to die in a famine in the 1990s after he took power.

Despite the tenuous position from which he started, Kim managed to stay in power. He also installed economic reforms that were designed to bring a small and controlled amount of free-market economics into the state-planned economy.

His greatest moment may have come on June 15, 2000, when he hosted the first summit of the leaders of the two Koreas when then South Korean leader Kim Dae-jung visited Pyongyang.

Kim’s image was transformed from a feared and mysterious leader to a kind-hearted host who had the world knocking on his door.

A landmark summit with then-US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Russian president Vladimir Putin soon followed the visit by South Korea’s president.

The ray of sunshine out of the North then came to an end.

In 2002, tension rose after Washington said Pyongyang had admitted to pursuing a nuclear arms program in violation of a 1994 agreement that was to have frozen its atomic ambitions.

North Korea expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in December 2002 and said in January 2003 it was quitting the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In February 2005, North Korea said it had nuclear weapons and in October 2006, it rattled the region by exploding a nuclear device. North Korea conducted a second nuclear test in May 2009.

Kim reportedly told visitors that it was the dying wish of his father to see the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons and he wanted to work toward that end, but he first wanted to see the United States treat his state with respect.

Tensions heightened to their highest levels in years in 2010 with the torpedoing of a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors. The South blamed the attack on Pyongyang, but North denied responsibility.

Later that year, the North bombarded a South Korean island, the first such attack against civilian target since the 1950-53 Korean War.

This year, Kim’s health appeared to have improved and he visibly gained weight. He visited China twice and travelled to Russia for the first time in nearly a decade.

Kim has three known sons. He is believed to have anointed the youngest, Kim Jong-un, to succeed him.

Young and inexperienced, Kim Jong-un is seen as poised to take over North Korea with the death of his father, and extend the Kim dynasty’s rule over the reclusive state for a third generation.

Not much is known about the younger Kim – not even his age. But his father Kim Jong-il and his autocratic regime had begun making preparations for the son’s transition to power.

Thought to be aged around 27, Kim Jong-un had already been made a four-star general and occupied a prominent political post when he was reported to have made an important diplomatic visit to neighbouring China in May this year.

On the trip, he introduced himself to the destitute North’s main benefactor, possibly one of the most crucial diplomatic moves he will ever make.

“The rest of the world is going to have to look at someone who is basically a kid as having China’s support to be the North’s next leader,” Yang Moo-min, of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, said at the time.

The youngest of the leader’s three sons, Kim was most likely born in 1984. His name in Chinese characters translates as “righteous cloud” while the media calls him “the young general”.

Educated in Switzerland, he is thought to speak English and German, and bears a striking resemblance to his grandfather, the North’s founder, Kim Il-sung.

Analysts say two attacks on the peninsula last year, which killed 50 South Koreans, were aimed at winning the army’s support for a continuation of dynastic rule and underscored an intent to maintain the state’s military-first policy.

Experts say the young Kim is likely to follow the same militaristic path, maintaining a strong grip over one of the world’s largest armies and pressing on with a nuclear weapons program in the face of international outrage.

Last year, the young dauphin was officially anointed as leader-in-waiting when his father made him a four-star general and gave him a prominent political post. But for added security, Kim promoted his sister and her husband to top positions to create a powerful triumvirate to run the family dynasty.

Despite speculation that Kim Jong-il’s rule was nearing its end, after he reportedly suffered a stroke in 2008, the “Dear Leader” increased his workload and appeared to be physically stronger in recent months.

There have also been few signs of regime change, with no overt signs of crisis or instability.

“Despite economic hardship, food shortages, and a welter of sanctions, the Kim Jong-il regime seems stable, and the succession process is, by all appearances, taking place smoothly,” John Delury and Chung-in Moon of Yonsei University wrote in an article in April.

Moreover, the two scholars say China is actively engaged on diplomatic and economic levels in supporting North Korea’s survival, stability and development.

China prefers the status quo on the peninsula, worried that if the South takes over the North, the South would bring its US military ally to the Chinese border.

The most frequently viewed photograph of Jong-un before his emergence last year was of him as an 11-year-old. But recent pictures and footage of him show a heavy-set young man with his hair clipped short to resemble the young leader Kim Il-sung.

There is a question over whether his late mother, a Japanese-born professional dancer called Ko Yong-hui, was Kim Jong-il’s official wife or mistress – an issue that might weigh on his legitimate right to replace his father.

Even by intensely secretive North Korean standards, remarkably little is known about the son, whose youth is also a potential problem in a society that values seniority.

Kim Jong-il was very publicly named heir by his father, Kim Il-sung, but he studiously avoided repeating the process and for years none of his three sons appeared in state media.

Kim Il-sung, the “eternal president”, died in 1994.

After taking over from his father, Kim Jong-il saw his state’s economy grow weaker and a famine in the 1990s killed about one million of his people, while he advocated a military-first policy.

In a book about his time as chef to the ruling household, Kenji Fujimoto of Japan said that of the three sons, the youngest, Kim Jong-un, most resembled his father.

He is also said to have a ruthless streak and the strongest leadership skills of the three. He was also thought to be his father’s favorite.

As a show of solidarity, Cuba has declared three days of mourning for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, a reliable ally in a world in which Havana has become increasingly isolated since the end of the Cold War.

Cuba and North Korea are among the world’s five communist nations – the others being China, Laos and Vietnam – and Cuba is the only one-party communist regime in the Americas.

“Cuba’s Council of State has declared official mourning due to the passing of comrade Kim Jong-Il,” an official statement said, noting that Cuba’s flag would be flown at half mast from December 20-22.

A tearful North Korean state TV announcer delivered the news of Kim’s demise at 69 from a heart attack yesterday, and Pyongyang urged the country to rally behind Kim’s youngest son, Jong-Un, who is in his late 20s.

UDPATE: December 24. 2011. North Korean media have hailed the youngest son of late leader Kim Jong-il as “supreme commander” of the powerful military, in the latest sign that the untested successor is cementing his hold on power.

“We will uphold Comrade Kim Jong-un as our supreme commander and general and we will bring the Songun (military-first) revolution to a completion,” the ruling communist party’s Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial.

It is the first time that one of the North’s mouthpieces has used the title supreme commander – a post previously held by his father – for the new leader, already a four-star general though still in his late 20s.

“This shows that Jong-un now has a firm grip on the military and the North is heralding this to the outside world,” said professor Kim Yong-Hyun of Dongguk University in Seoul.

“It also suggests that the North will continue with its Songun policy at least in the foreseeable future.”

North Korea on Monday described the untested Jong-un as the “great successor” after announcing the death of his father at age 69.

The latest acclamation is particularly significant because it came on the 20th anniversary of the declaration of Kim Jong-Il as supreme commander, said professor Yang Moo-Jin at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies.

“The editorial is aimed at preparing the people for Jong-un becoming the supreme commander of the military and also announcing it to the outside world,” he said.

“Legal and official steps will follow sooner or later for his takeover from his deceased father as the supreme commander.”

The latest dynastic ruler remains a figure of mystery to the outside world, which is seeking clues to future policy in the nuclear-armed nation.

Analysts expect little political upheaval following the death – at least for now – since regime members have an interest in preserving the status quo.

The son was appointed to senior military and party posts in September 2010, paving the way for a third-generation hereditary succession after the late Kim succeeded his own father Kim Il-Sung in the 1990s.

The country’s regular armed forces total 1.19 million and the regime has a policy prioritising the military’s needs over those of civilians.

Kim Jong-un issued his first military order just before his father’s death was announced Monday in what was seen as an indication that he already controls the armed forces, South Korean media reported on Wednesday.

In its editorial, the Rodong Sinmun urged Jong-un to “heed the call from the people to you as the supreme commander and lead Kim Il-Sung’s Korea to an eternal victory.”

Kim Jong-il Dead at 69 - Funeral

UPDATED: December 28, 2011. North Korean officials are preparing for today’s funeral of the country’s former leader Kim Jong-il.

The exact details of today’s funeral service are a closely guarded secret but North Korea watchers expect it to be roughly the same as that for the country’s first leader Kim Il-sung.

If so, it will begin with anointed successor Kim Jong-un paying his respects in front of his father’s body.

Then, a motorcade may pass through the streets of Pyongyang via a series of military honour guards.

Afterwards it is expected to return to Kumsusan Memorial Palace where Kim Jong-il’s body will remain on display in the same way that his father’s body is.

Kim Jong-il Dead at 69 - Funeral Procession

UPDATED: December 29, 2011. The final ceremony for North Korea’s late leader Kim Jong-il will take place in the snow-covered streets of the capital later today. Like yesterday’s events the precise nature of what will take place remains a closely guarded secret.

The official mourning period is expected to end with a mass rally in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square, which is named after Kim Jong-il’s father. At one point the country will pause for three minutes while cars, boats and trains sound their horns.

Today’s events will also include an affirmation of North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un, and large portraits of Kim Jong-il will again feature prominently. The bitter North Korean winter, which has seen heavy snowfalls in Pyongyang, is not expected to stop tens of thousands of people attending the rally.

One of the myths surrounding Kim Jong-il was that he could control the weather and state media has reported unusually cold and wild weather accompanying his death. Temperatures in Pyongyang will again fall below minus 10 degrees today.

Yesterday in a three-hour funeral, the body of Kim Jong-il was driven through the snow-covered streets of North Korea’s capital.

State television showed a motorcade being led by a giant portrait of the “Dear Leader” moving slowly past the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang. Thousands of soldiers bowed in unison as the coffin was driven past before they burst into tears.

Kim Jong-un walked alongside the limousine carrying his father’s body. He saluted as he walked. He was accompanied by top military and civilian officials, including his influential uncle Jang Song-Thaek.

North Koreans were shown on local television sobbing uncontrollably as the motorcade passed through the streets of Pyongyang via a series of military honour guards. Eventually the elaborate state funeral came to an end where it started outside the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where Kim Jong-il’s body will remain on display.

South Korean press reports suggested truckloads of flowers had been imported from China and said a group of Russian embalmers were en route to Pyongyang to embalm Kim’s body.

The two-day funeral is seen as crucial for Kim Jong-un to establish his power base. Kim Jong-un will become the third member of the family to run the country.

Kim Jong-il presided over a famine in the 1990s which killed hundreds of thousands and a collapsing economy, but he pressed on with missile tests and a nuclear weapons program which earned his nation international sanctions.

There are still chronic shortages and UN agencies have said six million people – a quarter of the population – urgently need food.

Kim Jong-il Dead at 69 - Funeral Procession - Final Tribute

RELATED:

Kim Jong il’s Family Problems

source: reuters

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Kim Jong-il
김정일
金正日
Юрий Ирсенович Ким
Kim Jong-il in August 2011 whilst on a visit to Russia
Supreme Leader of North Korea
Incumbent
Assumed office
8 July 1994
President Kim Yong-nam
Premier Hong Song-nam
Pak Pong-ju
Kim Yong-il
Choe Yong-rim
Preceded by Kim Il-sung
Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea
Incumbent
Assumed office
9 April 1993
Deputy Jo Myong-rok (1993–2010)
Chang Sung-taek (2010–)
Preceded by Position established
Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army
Incumbent
Assumed office
24 December 1991
Preceded by Kim Il-sung
General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea
Incumbent
Assumed office
8 October 1997
Preceded by Kim Il-sung
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of Worker’s Party of Korea
Incumbent
Assumed office
8 October 1997
Preceded by Kim Il-sung
Personal details
Born 16 February 1941 (age 70)
Vyatskoye, Russian SFSR,Soviet Union (Soviet records)
16 February 1942 (age 69)
Baekdu Mountain, Japanese Korea (North Korean records)
Political party Workers’ Party of Korea
Spouse(s) Kim Young-sook
Song Hye-rim
Ko Young-hee
Kim Ok
Relations Kim Il-sung (father, deceased)
Kim Jong-suk (mother, deceased)
Children Kim Sul-song
Kim Jong-nam
Kim Jong-chul
Kim Jong-un
Alma mater Kim Il-sung University
University of Malta
Signature


Kim Jong-il
, also written as Kim Jong Il, birth name Yuri Irsenovich Kim (According to Soviet records) born 16 February 1941 (Soviet records) or 16 February 1942 (North Korean records), is theleader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). He is the Chairman of the National Defense Commission, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the ruling party since 1948, and the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, the fourth largest standing army in the world. In April 2009, North Korea’s constitution was amended and now implicitly refers to him as the “Supreme Leader“. He is also referred to as the “Dear Leader“, “our Father“, “the General” and “Generalissimo

Soviet records show that Kim Jong-il was born in the village of Vyatskoye, near Khabarovsk, in 1941, where his father, Kim Il-sung, commanded the 1st Battalion of the Soviet 88th Brigade, made up of Chinese and Korean exiles. Kim Jong-il’s mother, Kim Jong-suk, was Kim Il-sung’s first wife.

Kim Jong-il’s official biography states that he was born in a secret military camp on Baekdu Mountain in Japanese Korea on 16 February 1942. Official biographers claim that his birth at Baekdu Mountain was foretold by a swallow, and heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow over the mountain and a new star in the heavens.

In 1945, Kim was three or four years old (depending on his birth year) when World War II ended and Korea regained independence from Japan. His father returned to Pyongyang that September, and in late November Kim returned to Korea via a Soviet ship, landing at Sonbong (선봉군, also Unggi). The family moved into a former Japanese officer’s mansion in Pyongyang, with a garden and pool. Kim Jong-il’s brother, “Shura” Kim (the first Kim Jong-il, but known by his Russian nickname), drowned there in 1948. Unconfirmed reports suggest that five-year-old Kim Jong-il might have caused the accident. In 1949, his mother died in childbirth. Unconfirmed reports suggest that his mother might have been shot and left to bleed to death.

According to his official biography, Kim completed the course of general education between September 1950 and August 1960. He attended Primary School No. 4 and Middle School No. 1 (Namsan Higher Middle School) in Pyongyang This is contested by foreign academics, who believe he is more likely to have received his early education in the People’s Republic of China as a precaution to ensure his safety during the Korean War.

Throughout his schooling, Kim was involved in politics. He was active in the Children’s Union and the Democratic Youth League (DYL), taking part in study groups of Marxist political theory and other literature. In September 1957 he became vice-chairman of his middle school’s DYL branch. He pursued a programme of anti-factionalism and attempted to encourage greater ideological education among his classmates.

Kim is also said to have received English language education at the University of Malta in the early 1970s, on his infrequent holidays in Malta as guest of Prime Minister Dom Mintoff.

The elder Kim had meanwhile remarried and had another son, Kim Pyong-il (named after Kim Jong-il’s drowned brother). Since 1988, Kim Pyong-il has served in a series of North Korean embassies in Europe and is currently the North Korean ambassador to Poland. Foreign commentators suspect that Kim Pyong-il was sent to these distant posts by his father in order to avoid a power struggle between his two sons.

By the time of the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980, Kim Jong-il’s control of the Party operation was complete. He was given senior posts in the Politburo, the Military Commission and the party Secretariat. When he was made a member of the Seventh Supreme People’s Assembly in February 1982, international observers deemed him the heir apparent of North Korea.

At this time Kim assumed the title “Dear Leader” (친애하는 지도자, chinaehaneun jidoja) the government began building a personality cult around him patterned after that of his father, the “Great Leader”. Kim Jong-il was regularly hailed by the media as the “fearless leader” and “the great successor to the revolutionary cause”. He emerged as the most powerful figure behind his father in North Korea.

On 24 December 1991, Kim was also named supreme commander of the North Korean armed forces. Since the Army is the real foundation of power in North Korea, this was a vital step. Defense Minister Oh Jin-wu, one of Kim Il-sung’s most loyal subordinates, engineered Kim Jong-il’s acceptance by the Army as the next leader of North Korea, despite his lack of military service. The only other possible leadership candidate, Prime Minister Kim Il (no relation), was removed from his posts in 1976. In 1992, Kim Il-sung publicly stated that his son was in charge of all internal affairs in the Democratic People’s Republic.

In 1992, radio broadcasts started referring to him as the “Dear Father”, instead of the “Dear Leader”, suggesting a promotion. His 50th birthday in February was the occasion for massive celebrations, exceeded only by those for the 80th birthday of Kim Il Sung himself on 15 April that same year.

According to defector Hwang Jang-yop, the North Korean government system became even more centralized and autocratic during the 1980s and 1990s under Kim Jong-il than it had been under his father. In one example explained by Hwang, although Kim Il-sung required his ministers to be loyal to him, he nonetheless and frequently sought their advice during decision-making. In contrast, Kim Jong-il demands absolute obedience and agreement from his ministers and party officials with no advice or compromise, and he views any slight deviation from his thinking as a sign of disloyalty. According to Hwang, Kim Jong-il personally directs even minor details of state affairs, such as the size of houses for party secretaries and the delivery of gifts to his subordinates.

By the 1980s, North Korea began to experience severe economic stagnation. Kim Il-sung’s policy of juche (self-reliance) cut the country off from almost all external trade, even with its traditional partners, the Soviet Union and China.

South Korea accused Kim of ordering the 1983 bombing in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar), which killed 17 visiting South Korean officials, including four cabinet members, and another in 1987 which killed all 115 on board Korean Air Flight 858. A North Korean agent, Kim Hyon Hui, confessed to planting a bomb in the case of the second, saying the operation was ordered by Kim Jong-il personally.

In 1992, Kim Jong-il’s voice was broadcast within North Korea for the first time during a military parade for the KPA’s 60th year anniversary in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square, in which Kim Il-sung attended with Kim Jong-il by his side. After Kim Il-sung’s speech, and the parade inspection his son approached the microphone at the grandstand in response to the report of the parade inspector and simply said: “Glory to the heroic soldiers of the Korean People’s Army!” Everyone in the audience applauded and the parade participants at the square grounds (which included veteran soldiers and officers of the KPA) shouted “ten thousand years” three times after that.

On 8 July 1994, Kim Il-sung died, at the age of 82 from a heart attack. However, it took three years for Kim Jong-il to consolidate his power. He officially took the titles of General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the National Defense Commission on 8 October 1997. In 1998, his Defense Commission chairmanship was declared to be “the highest post of the state”, so Kim may be regarded as North Korea’s head of state from that date. Also in 1998, the Supreme People’s Assembly wrote the president’s post out of the constitution in memory of Kim Il-Sung, who was designated the country’s “Eternal President”. It can be argued, though, that he became the country’s leader when he became leader of the Workers’ Party; in most Communist countries the party leader is the most powerful person in the country.

Officially, Kim is part of a triumvirate heading the executive branch of the North Korean government along with Premier Choe Yong-rim and parliament chairman Kim Yong-nam (no relations). Each nominally has powers equivalent to a third of a president’s powers in most other presidential systems. Kim Jong-il is commander of the armed forces, Choe Yong-rim heads the government and Kim Yong-nam handles foreign relations. In practice, however, Kim Jong-il exercises absolute control over the government and the country.

Although Kim is not required to stand for popular election to his key offices, he is unanimously elected to the Supreme People’s Assembly every five years, representing a military constituency, due to his concurrent capacities as KPA Supreme Commander and Chairman of the DPRK NDC.

The state-controlled economy of North Korea struggled throughout the 1990s, primarily due to the loss of strategic trade arrangements with the Soviet Union and strained relations with China following China’s normalization with South Korea in 1992. In addition, North Korea experienced record-breaking floods (1995 and 1996) followed by several years of equally severe drought beginning in 1997. This, compounded with only 18% arable land and an inability to import the goods necessary to sustain industry, led to an immense famine and left North Korea in economic shambles. Faced with a country in decay, Kim adopted a “Military-First” policy (선군정치, Sŏn’gun chŏngch’i) to strengthen the country and reinforce the regime. On the national scale, this policy has produced a positive growth rate for the country since 1996, and the implementation of “landmark socialist-type market economic practices” in 2002 kept the North afloat despite a continued dependency on foreign aid for food.

In the wake of the devastation of the 1990s, the government began formally approving some activity of small-scale bartering and trade. As observed by Daniel Sneider, associate director for research at the Stanford University Asia-Pacific Research Center, this flirtation with capitalism is “fairly limited, but — especially compared to the past — there are now remarkable markets that create the semblance of a free market system.” In 2002, Kim Jong-il declared that “money should be capable of measuring the worth of all commodities.” These gestures toward economic reform mirror similar actions taken by China’s Deng Xiaoping in the late 1980s and early 90s. During a rare visit in 2006, Kim expressed admiration for China’s rapid economic progress.

In 1998, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung implemented the “Sunshine Policy” to improve North-South relations and to allow South Korean companies to start projects in the North. Kim Jong-il announced plans to import and develop new technologies to develop North Korea’s fledgling software industry. As a result of the new policy, the Kaesong Industrial Park was constructed in 2003 just north of the de-militarized zone, with the planned participation of 250 South Korean companies, employing 100,000 North Koreans, by 2007. However, by March 2007, the Park contained only 21 companies — employing 12,000 North Korean workers. As of May 2010 the park employs over 40,000 North Korean workers.

In 1994, North Korea and the United States signed an Agreed Framework which was designed to freeze and eventually dismantle the North’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid in producing two power-generating nuclear reactors. In 2002, Kim Jong-il’s government admitted to having produced nuclear weapons since the 1994 agreement. Kim’s regime argued the secret production was necessary for security purposes — citing the presence of United States-owned nuclear weapons in South Korea and the new tensions with the US under President George W. Bush. On 9 October 2006, North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency announced that it had successfully conducted an underground nuclear test.

In an August 2008 issue of the Japanese newsweekly Shukan Gendai, Waseda University professor Toshimitsu Shigemura, an authority on the Korean Peninsula, claimed that Kim Jong-il died of diabetes in late 2003 and had been replaced in public appearances by one or more stand-ins previously employed to protect him from assassination attempts. In a subsequent best-selling book, The True Character of Kim Jong-il, Shigemura cited apparently un-named people close to Kim’s family along with Japanese and South Korean intelligence sources, claiming they confirmed Kim’s diabetes took a turn for the worse early in 2000 and from then until his supposed death three and a half years later he was using a wheelchair. Shigemura moreover claimed a voiceprint analysis of Kim speaking in 2004 did not match a known earlier recording. It was also noted that Kim Jong-il did not appear in public for the Olympic torch relay in Pyongyang on 28 April 2008. The question had reportedly “baffled foreign intelligence agencies for years.”

On 9 September 2008, various sources reported that after he did not show up that day for a military parade celebrating North Korea’s 60th anniversary, US intelligence agencies believed Kim might be “gravely ill” after having suffered a stroke. He had last been seen in public a month earlier.

A former CIA official said earlier reports of a health crisis were likely to be accurate. North Korean media remained silent on the issue. An Associated Press report said analysts believed Kim had been supporting moderates in the foreign ministry, while North Korea’s powerful military was against so-called “Six-Party” negotiations with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States aimed towards ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons. Some US officials noted that soon after rumours about Kim’s health were publicized a month before, North Korea had taken a “tougher line in nuclear negotiations.” In late August North Korea’s official news agency reported the government would “consider soon a step to restore the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon to their original state as strongly requested by its relevant institutions.” Analysts said this meant “the military may have taken the upper hand and that Kim might no longer be wielding absolute authority.”

By 10 September there were conflicting reports. Unidentified South Korean government officials said Kim had undergone surgery after suffering a minor stroke and had apparently “intended to attend 9 September event in the afternoon but decided not to because of the aftermath of the surgery.” High ranking North Korean official Kim Yong-nam said, “While we wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the country with General Secretary Kim Jong-Il, we celebrated on our own.” Song Il-Ho, North Korea’s ambassador said, “We see such reports as not only worthless, but rather as a conspiracy plot.” Seoul’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that “the South Korean embassy in Beijing had received an intelligence report that Kim collapsed on 22 August.” TheNew York Times reported Kim was “very ill and most likely suffered a stroke a few weeks ago, but US intelligence authorities do not think his death is imminent.” The BBC noted that the North Korean government denied these reports, stating that Kim’s health problems were “not serious enough to threaten his life,” although they did confirm that he had suffered from a stroke on 15 August.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on 14 September that “Kim collapsed on 14 August due to stroke or a cerebral hemorrhage, and that Beijing dispatched five military doctors at the request of Pyongyang. Kim will require a long period of rest and rehabilitation before he fully recovers and has complete command of his limbs again, as with typical stroke victims.” Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun said Kim occasionally lost consciousness since April. Japan’s Tokyo Shimbun on 15 September added that Kim was staying at the Bongwha State Guest House. He was apparently conscious “but he needs some time to recuperate from the recent stroke, with some parts of his hands and feet paralyzed”. It cited Chinese sources which claimed that one cause for the stroke could have been stress brought about by the US delay to remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

On 19 October, North Korea reportedly ordered its diplomats to stay near their embassies to await “an important message”, according to Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, setting off renewed speculation about the health of the ailing leader.

By 29 October 2008, reports stated Kim suffered a serious setback and had been taken back to hospital. The New York Times reported that Taro Aso, on 28 October 2008, stated in a parliamentary session that Kim had been hospitalized: “His condition is not so good. However, I don’t think he is totally incapable of making decisions.” Aso further said a French neurosurgeon was aboard a plane for Beijing, en route to North Korea. Further, Kim Sung-ho, director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, told lawmakers in a closed parliamentary session in Seoul that “Kim appeared to be recovering quickly enough to start performing his daily duties.” The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported “a serious problem” with Kim’s health. Japan’s Fuji Television Networkreported that Kim’s eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, traveled to Paris to hire a neurosurgeon for his father, and showed footage where the surgeon boarded flight CA121 bound for Pyongyang from Beijing on 24 October. The French weekly Le Point identified him as Francois-Xavier Roux, neurosurgery director of Paris’ Sainte-Anne Hospital, but Roux himself stated he was in Beijing for several days and not North Korea.

On 5 November 2008, the North’s Korean Central News Agency published 2 photos showing Kim posing with dozens of Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldiers on a visit to military Unit 2200 and sub-unit of Unit 534. Shown with his usual bouffant hairstyle, with his trademark sunglasses and a white winter parka, Kim stood in front of trees with autumn foliage and a red-and-white banner. The Times questioned the authenticity of at least one of these photos.

In November 2008, Japan’s TBS TV network reported that Kim had suffered a second stroke in October, which “affected the movement of his left arm and leg and also his ability to speak.” However, South Korea’s intelligence agency rejected this report.

In response to the rumors regarding Kim’s health and supposed loss of power, in April 2009, North Korea released a video showing Kim visiting factories and other places around the country between November and December 2008. In July 2009, it was reported that Kim may be suffering from pancreatic cancer.

In 2010, documents released by Wikileaks stated that Kim suffers from epilepsy.

Like his father, Kim has a fear of flying, and always travels by private armored train for state visits to Russia and China. The BBC reported that Konstantin Pulikovsky, a Russian emissary who traveled with Kim across Russia by train, told reporters that Kim had live lobsters air-lifted to the train every day.

Kim is said to be a huge film fan, owning a collection of more than 20,000 video tapes and DVDs. His reported favorite movie franchises include Friday the 13thRamboGodzilla, and Hong Kong action cinema,[108] and any movie starring Elizabeth Taylor. He is the author of the book On the Art of the Cinema. In 1978, on Kim’s orders, South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and his actress wife Choi Eun-hee were kidnapped in order to build a North Korean film industry. In 2006 he was involved in the production of the Juche-based movie Diary of a Girl Student – depicting the life of a girl whose parents are scientists – with a KCNA news report stating that Kim “improved its script and guided its production”.

Although Kim enjoys many foreign forms of entertainment, according to former bodyguard Lee Young Kuk, he refused to consume any food or drink not produced in North Korea, with the exception of wine from France. His former chef Kenji Fujimoto, however, has stated that Kim has sometimes sent him around the world to purchase a variety of foreign delicacies.

Kim reportedly enjoys basketball. Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ended her summit with Kim by presenting him with a basketball signed by NBA legend Michael Jordan. Also an apparent golfer, North Korean state media reports that Kim routinely shoots three or four holes-in-one per round. His official biography also claims Kim has composed six operas and enjoys staging elaborate musicals. Kim also refers to himself as an Internet expert.

US Special Envoy for the Korean Peace Talks, Charles Kartman, who was involved in the 2000 Madeleine Albright summit with Kim, characterised Kim Jong-il as a reasonable man in negotiations, to the point, but with a sense of humor and personally attentive to the people he was hosting. However, psychological evaluations conclude that Kim Jong-il’s antisocial features, such as his fearlessness in the face of sanctions and punishment, serve to make negotiations extraordinarily difficult.

The field of psychology has long been fascinated with the personality assessment of dictators, a notion that resulted in an extensive personality evaluation of Kim Jong-il. The report, compiled by Frederick L. Coolidge and Daniel L. Segal (with the assistance of a South Korean psychiatrist considered an expert on Kim Jong-il’s behavior), concluded that the “big six” group of personality disorders shared by dictators Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Saddam Hussein (sadistic, paranoid, antisocial, narcissistic, schizoidand schizotypal) were also shared by Kim Jong-il—coinciding primarily with the profile of Saddam Hussein. The evaluation also finds that Kim Jong-il appears to pride himself on North Korea’s independence, despite the extreme hardships it appears to place on the North Korean people—an attribute appearing to emanate from his antisocial personality pattern. This notion also encourages other cognitive issues, such as self-deception, as subsidiary components to Kim Jong-il’s personality. Many of the stories about Kim Jong Il’s eccentricities and decadent life-style are exaggerated, possibly circulated by South Korean intelligence to discredit the Northern regime. Defectors claim that Kim has 17 different palaces and residences all over North Korea, including a private resort near Baekdu Mountain, a seaside lodge in the city of Wonsan, and a palace complex northeast of Pyongyang surrounded with multiple fence lines, bunkers and anti-aircraft batteries.

Official titles

  • Party Center of the WPK (1970s)
  • Vice-Chairman, WPK Central Committee (1972–80)
  • Dear Leader (Chinaehanuen Jidoja) (late 1970s-1994)
  • Intelligent Leader (1973–84)
  • Member, Presidum of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK
  • Secretary of the Worker’s Party of Korea (1980–94)
  • Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (25 December 1991-)
  • Marshal of the DPRK (1993-)
  • Chairman, National Defense Commission of North Korea (1993-)
  • Great Leader (Widehan Ryongdoja) (July 1994-)
  • General Secretary, Workers Party of Korea (1997-)
  • Supreme Leader of the People’s Republic (2009-)

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