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Kim Jong-il, North Korea President Is Dead

Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s dictator, has died, piling pressure on his inexperienced son to ensure the stability of his impoverished, nuclear-armed state.

A North Korean television newscaster, clad in black, announced on Monday that the 70-year-old had died of a heart attack, caused by overwork, while travelling by train on Saturday.

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In Japan, Yoshihiko Noda, prime minister, cancelled a planned speech and returned to the premier’s residence to confer with advisers. The government’s chief spokesman, Osamu Fujimura, said Tokyo was working to confirm the North Korean announcement and that officials were in close touch with their counterparts in Seoul and Washington. Japan put its coast guard on alert.

South Korean officials have consistently identified the death of Kim Jong-il as one of the events that could accelerate the unification of the peninsula that has been divided since 1945.

Shares on Seoul’s Kospi index fell 3 per cent by 1pm. However, South Korean markets often regard unexpected news from the North as a buying opportunity.

“Investors were rattled by the news because they are not sure about what will happen in North Korea after his death,” said Lee Sang-won at Hyundai Securities. “But the shock is unlikely to last long. When we look at past incidents related to North Korea, the impact was always shortlived no matter how serious the risk was.”

During his illness, Kim promoted his younger sister, Kim Kyong-hui, and her husband, Chang Sung-taek, to positions where they could oversee the succession of the inexperienced Jong-eun. Political analysts have argued that their role will prove decisive in ensuring a smooth transfer of power in Pyongyang.

Brain Myers, an expert in North Korean ideology at Dongseo university, argues it would be unthinkable for commanders from outside the family to seize control because the whole state is founded on the continuity of the Kim bloodline.

The greater danger for instability in the region is that rival North Korean generals and Workers’ party bosses will jostle for positions where they can use Kim Jong-eun as a figurehead for their own ambitions, analysts argue.


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