North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (C) inspecting the construction site of the Huichon power station at Jagang province in September. Picture: AFP
NORTH Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has died.
The veteran leader died on Saturday, December 17, a weeping announcer said on Pyongyang’s state television on Monday.
He was 69.
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.
The state television announcer said Kim died of fatigue while on a train, the BBC reported.
“It is the biggest loss for the party … and it is our people and nation’s biggest sadness,” an anchorwoman clad in black Korean traditional dress said in a voice choked with tears. She said the nation must “change our sadness to strength and overcome our difficulties.”
South Korean media, including Yonhap news agency, said South Korea put its military on “high alert” and President Lee Myung-bak convened a national security council meeting after the news of Kim’s death. Officials couldn’t immediately confirm the reports.
The South Korean military has been put on emergency alert after the death was announced.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered all military units on emergency alert after the news of Kim’s death was announced on Monday, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
The two Koreas remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
Relations have been tense over the North’s nuclear program, its bombardment in November 2010 of a South Korean border island and the sinking of a South Korean warship in March 2010 that Seoul blamed on Pyongyang. It denied the accusations.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said monitoring of the Korean border had been stepped up by South Korean and US forces.
Officials told Yonhap that no unusual activity had been observed.
The news came as North Korea prepared for a hereditary succession. Kim Jong Il inherited power after his father, revered North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994.
In September 2010, Kim Jong Il unveiled his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor, putting him in high-ranking posts.
Asian stock markets moved lower amid the news, which raises the possibility of increased instability on the divided Korean peninsula.
South Korea’s Kospi index was down 3.9 percent at 1,767.89 and Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.8 percent to 8,331.00. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 2 percent to 17,929.66 and the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2 percent to 2,178.75.