Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, December 2011
North Korea's Leader Kim Jong-il Dies,
his Son Kim Jong-Un Declared New Ruler
DPRK top leader passes away from mental, physical strain
PYONGYANG, Dec. 19, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Kim Jong Il, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), passed away last Saturday, the DPRK's official KCNA news agency reported on Monday.
Kim, who was general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission, and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA), died "from a great mental and physical strain at 08:30 (2330 GMT Friday) Dec. 17, 2011, on the train during a field guidance tour," said the report.
Meanwhile, the KCNA also said that the "Korean revolution" is led by Kim Jong Un now, and that the WPK members, servicepersons and all other people will be faithful to his leadership, citing a notice released Saturday by the WPK Central Committee and Central Military Commission, DPRK National Defence Commission, Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and Cabinet, according to the KCNA.
The 69-year-old Kim Jong Il suffered an advanced acute myocardial infarction Saturday, complicated with a serious heart shock, and every possible first-aid measure was taken immediately before his death, said the report.
The National Funeral Committee led by Kim Jong Un has been set up and the body of Kim Jong Il will be placed at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.
The DPRK will be in a period of mourning from Dec. 17 to Dec. 29 and condolence will be accepted form Tuesday to Dec. 27, said the report, adding that the farewell ceremony will be held on Dec. 28 and the National Meeting of Memorial will be held on Dec. 29.
North Korea mourns dead leader, son hailed as "Great Successor."
Pyongyang mourns the passing of Kim Jong Il (01:41)
SEOUL | Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:51am EST
SEOUL (Reuters) -
North Koreans poured into the streets on Monday to mourn the death of iron leader Kim Jong-il as state media hailed his untested son as the "Great Successor" of the reclusive state whose atomic weapons ambitions are a major threat to the region.
Earlier a tearful North Korean television announcer, dressed in black and her voice quavering, said the 69-year old ruler died on Saturday of "physical and mental over-work" on a train on his way to give field guidance -- advice dispensed by the "Dear Leader" on trips to factories, farms and the military.
Security concerns over the hermit state, that in 2010 shelled civilians on a South Korean island and is blamed for the sinking of one of its warships earlier that year, were heightened after Seoul said the North had test-fired a short range missile prior to the announcement of Kim's death.
It was the first known launch since June and in a bid to calm tensions, South Korea's defense ministry said it might abandon plans to light Christmas trees on the border, something the North has warned could provoke retaliations.
North Korea's official KCNA news agency lauded Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong-un as "the outstanding leader of our party, army and people."
"We have esteemed comrade Kim Jong-un," KCNA led a dispatch that said North Koreans from all walks of life are in utter despair but were finding comfort in the "absolute surety that the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-un will lead and succeed the great task of revolutionary enterprise."
But there was uncertainty about how much support the third generation of the North's ruling dynasty has among the ruling elite, especially in the military, and worry he might need a military show of strength to help establish his credentials.
"Kim Jong-un is a pale reflection of his father and grandfather. He has not had the decades of grooming and securing of a power base that Jong-il enjoyed before assuming control from his father," said Bruce Klingner, an Asia policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
"(He) may feel it necessary in the future to precipitate a crisis to prove his mettle to other senior leaders or deflect attention from the regime's failings."
Video from Chinese state television showed residents weeping in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. KCNA reported people were "writhing in pain" from the loss of the man who in 1994 assumed the leadership of the totalitarian state from his father Kim Il-sung, the North's first, and officially eternal, president.
Large crowds gathered at a massive memorial of Kim's father and state founder Kim Il-sung in central Pyongyang mourning the death of the "Dear Leader." Kim will be laid to rest next to his father, KCNA said.
The funeral of Kim, turned into a demi-god by his propaganda machine, will be held on December 28.
News of the death of the man whose push to build a nuclear arsenal left the North heavily sanctioned and internationally isolated, triggered immediate nervousness in the region, with South Korea stepping up its military alert.
China, the North's neighbor and only powerful ally, said it was confident the North would remain united and that the two countries would maintain their relationship.
"We were distressed to learn of the unfortunate passing of (Kim) ... and we express our grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of North Korea," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.
"We are confident the North Korean people will be able to turn their anguish into strength and unify as one," he said.
Kim family tree: r.reuters.com/quk65s
Power structure: r.reuters.com/puk65s
Nuclear facilities: r.reuters.com/nuk65s
While his father had 20 years as official heir, Kim Jong-un only became successor by taking on official titles last year, months after Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke around August 2008.
He takes over a hermit state whose economy has been ravaged by years of mismanagement under Kim Jong-il, who only briefly flirted with economic reform, preferring to stick with central planning and the brutal crushing of any opposition.
Under Kim Jong-il's rule, an estimated 1 million North Koreans died during famine in the 1990s. Even with good harvests, the state cannot feed its 25 million people.
Little is known of Jong-un, who is believed to be in his late 20s, studied for a short time at a school in Switzerland.
KCNA said Kim Jong-il died on Saturday after "an advanced acute myocardial infarction, complicated with a serious heart shock."
South Korea, still technically at war with the North, placed its troops and all government workers on emergency alert, but said there were no signs of any unusual North Korean troop movements.
The United States said it was committed to stability on the Korean peninsula as well as to its allies. There are some 28,000 U.S. troops on the divided peninsula. Across the heavily armed border, the North maintains an estimated 1 million troops, one of the world's largest standing armies.
Japan, too, said it was watching developments closely.
"We hope this sudden event does not have an adverse effect on the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference after a hastily called ministerial meeting on security.
The fear of what might happen next in North Korea unsettled financial markets, with Asian shares and U.S. index futures falling. South Korean stocks tumbled as much as 5 percent, and the U.S. dollar gained. The Korean won fell 1.8 percent.
Kim Jong-un was at the head of a long list of officials making up the funeral committee, indicating he would lead it, and a key sign that he had taken, or been given, charge.
Zhu Feng, Professor of International Relations at Peking University, said it was clear the mechanism for transition was in place and working.
"The issue of primary concern now is not whether North Korea will maintain political stability, but what will be the nature of the new political leadership, and what policies will it pursue at home and abroad.
"In the short-term, there won't be new policies, only a stressing of policy stability and continuity. So soon after Kim Jong-il has died, no leader will dare say that an alternative policy course is needed," Zhu said.
But Chung Young-Tae at the Korea Institute of National Unification said there was "a big possibility that a power struggle may happen."
Kim Jong-il also promoted his sister and her husband, Jang Song-thaek, to important political and military posts, creating a powerful triumvirate.
Jang is seen as effective regent for the younger Kim. He holds a top position in the powerful Worker's Party providing some balance to the generals who have been seen as more hardline in pushing the North to develop an atomic arsenal.
Earlier this decade, Jang was forced into exile for what is thought to have been conflict over his push for economic reform.
Experts say Jong-un has the intelligence and leadership skills that make him suitable to succeed his father. He is also reported to have a ruthless streak that analysts say he would need to rule North Korea.
North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in 2006 and again in May 2009, is seen as one of the greatest threats to regional security.
Last year, the secretive North unveiled a uranium enrichment facility, giving it a second route to make an atomic bomb along with its plutonium program.
Victor Cha, a Korea expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank in Washington, said communication among China, the United States and South Korea was vital.
"Because these are the three key players when it comes to instability in North Korea. And the Chinese have been reluctant to have any conversations on this," he said.
"Now the situation really calls for it. It will be interesting to see how much the Chinese will be willing to have some sort of discussion."
(Additional reporting by Seoul, Washington and Asian bureaux, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)
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North Korea's Leader Kim Jong-il Dies
Kim Jong-il, North Korea's long-time ruler has died of heart failure aged 69, state media announced Monday. His third son, Kim Jong-un, is likely to succeed him and rule one of the world's most isolated countries.
Kim Jong-il, the venerated “dear leader” of reclusive North Korea, has died aged 69, the country’s state media said on Monday.
“It is the biggest loss for the party, and it is our people and nation’s biggest sadness,” a weeping black-clad woman television presenter announced.
Kim, who reportedly suffered from heart disease and diabetes, died as a result of a heart attack on Saturday, which the official KCNA news agency attributed to physical and mental overwork.
The leader of the reclusive – and nuclear armed –“hermit kingdom” is thought to have suffered a stroke in 2008, and had since been preparing his third son, Kim Jung-un, to take over leadership of the Stalinist state.
Little is known as to how the succession will be played out, or even the exact age of Swiss-educated Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-il succeeded his father Kim Il-sung after a three-year transition period, following his death in 1994.
Kim’s eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, 38, is understood to have been ruled out for the succession after he was caught attempting to travel to Japan using a fake passport in 2001. He was reportedly trying to visit Disney’s Tokyo resort.
KCNA on Monday told the country, workers and soldiers to stand behind Kim Jong-un and “faithfully revere” his leadership.
But little is known as to how much power Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, actually commands and what the fate of the country, effectively sealed off from the rest of the world, will be.
“Very few of the many commentators who will speak about North Korea in the coming days have spent any real length of time in the country,” said FRANCE 24 International Affairs Correspondent Douglas Herbert.
“All speculation about what might happen next will be just that – educated guesswork.”
Kim Jong-un’s succession would make him the third leader of a dynasty that emerged from the ashes of the Second World War and was forged in the three-year Korean War.
That war has never officially ended despite a ceasefire agreement reached in 1954, and the peninsula is divided by a demilitarised zone that remains one of the most fortified regions of the world.
Kim Il-sung, who had fought the Japanese during the Second World War, turned North Korea into a Stalin-inspired Communist state, founded on a personally cult that pursued during his son's rule.
Their portraits hang in every building and the elder Kim has remained “the eternal president” even after his death.
According to North Korean legend, Kim Jong-il was born in 1942 on Mount Paektu, one of Korea’s most cherished landmarks, and his birth was heralded by a pair of rainbows and the birth of a new star. According to Soviet records, he was born in Siberia in 1941.
In 1973 Kim was elected to the political bureau of the Workers' Party's central committee, formally becoming North Korea's future leader.
Following his father’s death, the younger Kim was confirmed general secretary of the Workers' party in 1997 and the “dear leader” of the country.
Kim continued his father’s policy of prioritising the military (the world’s fifth-biggest) despite a famine which affected millions of his countrymen.
Kim also built up his country’s nuclear capability, conducting a first successful underground explosion in 2006, followed by another in 2009.
In 2002, US President George Bush branded North Korea part of an “axis of evil” with Iran and Iraq, calling Kim a “tyrant” more interested in building nuclear weapons and maintaining power through a network of “huge concentration camps” than feeding his starving people.
While his people suffered in their isolation and diplomatic relations with the rest of the world remained minimal, Kim cultivated his own interests, including foreign films, cars and basketball.
Kim also enjoyed a sometimes lavish personal lifestyle, as detailed by Konstantin Pulikovsky, a former Russian Presidential envoy who wrote the book “Orient Express” about a trip the North Korean leader made in his personal train to Moscow in 2001 (Kim had a long-reported fear of flying).
Pulikovsky said the private train was stocked with crates of French wine and that live lobsters were delivered to stations ahead of the train.
A Japanese sushi chef who claimed to have cooked for Kim for a decade said the leader had a 10,000-bottle wine cellar, ate shark fin soup on a weekly basis and sometimes indulged in marathon all-night banquets, the longest lasting four days.
Repeated attempts to negotiate disarmament with Kim Jong-il’s regime failed, and it remains to be seen whether his death will open a new chapter in North Korea’s relationship with the rest of the world.
Biographer Michael Breen, author of “Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader”, told FRANCE 24 on Monday that it was impossible to say what would happen next, but remained pessimistic that the isolated country would throw open its borders any time soon.
“Nobody knows for sure what’s happening in North Korea right now,” he said. “But the country’s elite will recognise that it’s in their interest to see a stable transition of power.
“They also know that if they start opening the country up, that is going to bring down huge problems for them.
“Remember that this is a country where most people don’t even know that men have walked on the moon. They were never told because it was the Americans.”
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