North Korea’s Kim Jong Il Dead at 69

Posted December 19th, 2011 at 7:00 am (UTC-5)
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North Korea's long-time leader Kim Jong Il has died.

The official Korean Central News Agency reported Monday the 69-year-old reclusive leader died Saturday of a heart attack while on a train for one of his “field guidance” tours. The agency attributed his death to “physical and mental over-work.”

KCNA said his funeral will be held on December 28 in Pyongyang. A period of national mourning was declared from December 17 to 29.

Kim Jong Il came to power after his father, North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994. Reliable biographical information about Mr. Kim is scarce. He rarely appeared in public and his voice was seldom broadcast.

He may be best remembered for defying the international community and boosting North Korea's nuclear program, while millions of North Koreans were starving.

Late last year, Mr. Kim promoted his youngest son Kim Jong Un to the rank of four-star general, in what was seen as a bid to extend the world's only communist family dynasty to a third generation.

The KCNA on Monday urged people to follow Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be around 28 years old.

North Koreans expressed shock at the news of Mr. Kim's death, with many people crying openly in the streets.

Workers at an electric wire factory were seen in tears as they watched the announcement on state television.

Factory worker Jo Jae Sok said he could not believe the news. “Leader Kim Jong Il is always with us. I saw him on TV every day. We have worked hard for the modernization of the factory under difficult conditions, eagerly waiting for him to come to our factory again. I can't believe the news about his passing away.”

Another factory worker, Kim Ok Song said she had been waiting for Mr. Kim to visit the factory she worked in. “It is unbelievable that leader Kim Jong Il whom I have followed like my own father passed away. I don't know how to describe my grief. I have been looking forward to seeing him in my factory. I will change sorrow into strength and courage and remain faithful respected Comrade Kim Jong Un.”