Monday, December 19, 2011

Dear leader

The leadership of North Korea appeared to pass to a third generation of the Kim family Monday after the weekend death of Kim Jong Il, who ruled the reclusive Stalinist state since 1994. The man known as the "dear leader" died of a heart attack Saturday at age 69, state news outlets announced Monday. The ruling Worker's Party declared the youngest of his three sons, Kim Jong Un, the "great successor" to his father's mantle.

Kim Jong Il had led North Korea since 1994, when his father -- the nation's founder, Kim Il Sung -- died at age 82. During his 17 years in power, the country suffered a devastating famine even as it built up its million-strong army, expanded its arsenal of ballistic missiles and became the world's eighth declared nuclear power.

The news of his death spurred South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North more than five decades after their 1950-53 conflict, to put its military on high alert. But across one of the world's most heavily fortified borders, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told his citizens "to go about their lives" in the meantime.

"For the sake of the future of the Republic of Korea, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula is more important than anything else. It should not be threatened by what has happened," he said.

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