SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has died aged 69 of a heart attack, state media announced Monday, plunging the impoverished but nuclear-armed nation into uncertainty amid a second dynastic succession.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the leader “passed away from a great mental and physical strain” at 23.30 GMT Friday, while on a train for one of his “field guidance” tours.
It urged people to follow his youngest son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un, who is aged in his late 20s and until last year had no public profile.
“All party members, military men and the public should faithfully follow the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un and protect and further strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public,” said the news agency and a weeping black-clad TV announcer.
KCNA said Kim died of a “severe myocardial infarction along with a heart attack”. It said an autopsy was performed Sunday.
The leader suffered a stroke in August 2008 which left him with impaired movement in his left arm and leg.
His funeral will be held on December 28 in Pyongyang but no foreign delegations will be invited, KCNA said. A period of national mourning was declared from December 17 to 29.
South Korea placed all troops on emergency alert after the shock news, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported. It summoned a meeting of the National Security Council and President Lee Myung-Bak cancelled all his schedules.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had increased monitoring along the border along with US forces in the country but no unusual activity had been observed.
KCNA, quoting a statement from the national funeral committee headed by Jong-un, said Kim Jong-il’s body would lie in state in Kumsusan palace where his father’s embalmed body is on display.
It said mourners would be allowed to visit the body from December 20 to 27.
S Korea shares tumble
SEOUL: South Korean shares tumbled 4.87 per cent soon after the announcement that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had died. The benchmark KOSPI fell 89.36 points to 1,750.60 minutes after the news before edging back up slightly.
Son and heir
The young man tipped to be North Korea’s next leader and propel the Kim dynasty into a third generation is even more of an enigma than his mercurial father Kim Jong-Il, who has died at the age of 69.
North Korean state media on Monday urged people to follow Kim’s youngest son and heir apparent Kim Jong-Unn (above), aged in his late 20s, after announcing that his father had died on Saturday, plunging the country into confusion.
Kim Jong-Un’s life is shrouded in mystery, but in recent years he has been pushed to the forefront as his father apparently speeded up plans for a second dynastic succession after suffering a stroke in August 2008.
In a memoir, Kenji Fujimoto, a former Japanese sushi chef for Kim Jong-Il, described the Swiss-educated Jong-Un as a “chip off the old block, a spitting image of his father in terms of face, body shape and personality”.