19
Dec

Kim Jong Il, a Cold War-Era Leader in Modern Times

Written on December 19, 2011 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Asia, Democracy & Human Rights, Foreign Policy, News

By JEAN H. LEE and RAFAEL WOBER

 

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Even as the world changed around him, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il remained firmly in control, ruling absolutely at home and keeping the rest of the world on edge through a nuclear weapons program.

Inheriting power from his father, he led his nation through a devastating famine while frustrating the U.S. and other global powers with an on-again, off-again approach to talks on giving up nuclear arms in return for food and other assistance. Kim was one of the last remnants of a Cold War-era that ended years earlier in most other countries.

His death after 17 years as leader was announced Monday by state television two days after he died. North Korea’s news agency reported that he had died at 8:30 a.m. Saturday after having a heart attack on a train, adding that he had been treated for cardiac and cerebrovascular diseases for a long time. He was 69.

Kim, who reputedly had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but he had appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country documented by state media.

His longtime pursuit of nuclear weapons and his military’s repeated threats to South Korea and the U.S. stoked worries that fighting might break out again on the Korean peninsula or that North Korea might provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorist movements. The Korean War ended more than 50 years ago in a cease-fire, and the two sides remain technically in a state of war.

Kim Jong Il took power after his father, revered North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994. He unveiled his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor in September 2010, putting him in high-ranking posts. On Monday, the North Korean news agency dubbed the son a “great successor” as the country rallied around him.

Few firm facts are available when it comes to North Korea, and not much is clear about Kim Jong Il, the man known as the “Dear Leader.” Read more…

As published by ABC News on December 19, 2011.

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