Dec. 18, 2011
SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic leader, has died. He was 69.
Kim's death was announced Monday by the state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully documented by state media. The leader, reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.
In a 2003 documentary, FRONTLINE described North Korea's relationship with its ruler:
North Korea was ruled by Kim Il Sung from the time the regime was founded in 1948 until his death in 1994, and has since been ruled by Kim's eldest son, Kim Jong Il. These are the only leaders most North Koreans alive today have ever known. The veneration of Kim Il Sung, which began in the 1940s and has grown ever since, exceeds the "cults of personality" promoted by Stalin, Mao, and perhaps any other modern leader.... It appears that most ordinary people in North Korea revere the two Kims as great heroes and leaders. They have no outside point of reference from which to criticize their leadership, and have never seen any alternative.
More about Kim Jong-Il and the country he ruled, from FRONTLINE.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.