Kim Jong Il Dead at 69

North Korean leader died from heart failure, state media says

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 18, 2011 9:13 PM CST | Updated Dec 19, 2011 12:06 AM CST

(Newser) – Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic leader, has died at the age of 69, according to state television. His death was was announced today by a tearful announcer in black who said he had died from physical and mental over-work while on a train trip to a location outside Pyongyang, Reuters reports. A later report from state-run media said the "Dear Leader" had died of heart failure.

Kim, revered as a man of almost superhuman talents by state-run media, but widely mocked in the West, inherited power after his father's death in 1994. His designated successor is believed to be his son, Kim Jong Un, who is still in his 20s. Asian stock markets fell on the news of his death and South Korea placed its military on alert. With the transition to power in North Korea incomplete, "very unstable times" times could lie ahead for the diplomatically isolated nation, an analyst tells the BBC.

In this Aug. 24, 2011 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, listens to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
In this Aug. 24, 2011 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, listens to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.   (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service, File)
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North Korean state TV announces the death of Kim Jong Il.   (lizard151103)

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