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NORTH KOREA-Kim Jong Il, the Supreme Leader of the impoverished communist country died of an apparent heart attack while traveling by train in an area outside of Pyongyang on Saturday according to reports from North Korea. He was 69.
Kim Jong Il was born on February 16th, 1941, in the Russian City of Khabarovsk. His father was there training to fight the Japanese in World War II, as were many other Korean and Chinese soldiers. But, according to official sources in Korea, his birth date was a year later and his place of birth was on the sacred peak of Mount Paektu, and his birth was heralded by a double rainbow. Many outlandish tales have been told of him through the years, all unsubstantiated.
Jong Il was aware of the power of the propaganda machine and what it could do for his position of power. He saw that film was a very effective means of inspiring the subjects of his rule. So much so that in 1978, he ordered the kidnapping of famous South Korean actress and her film director husband, Choi Eun Hee and Shin Sang Ok. They would make propaganda films for him for eight years, until they were allowed to take part in a film festival in Europe, where they made their escape. His subjects were interred in prison camps for watching films made in South Korea or the United States however.
Kim Jong Il consolidated control of the party’s operations by 1980, and was already widely known as heir apparent in 1982. His father, Kim Il-sung died in 1994, and at that time Kim Jong Il was de facto ruler of the country, but the official titles did not come until four years later. He has been considered the top leader of that country since 1998.
Included in the announcement of his death on North Korean State television, was the announcement that his son, Kim Jong-Un would take over the reins of the police run country. His funeral is set for December 28th.
Fears of de-stabilization in the country following his death caused the Asian stock market to tumble. It also prompted South Korea to convene its National Security Council for an emergency meeting and to place its military on alert.
It is expected that China will send high ranking officials to North Korea in the coming days to show support for the new leader and to ensure that the transition goes smoothly.