North Korea’s Dear Leader Kim Jong-il is dead at the age of sixty-nine. The spin by the North Korean media is that he died of a heart attack caused by overwork: “He worked day and night for socialist construction and happiness of people, for the union of country and modernisations. He left us so suddenly.”
Here is a video from the North Korean media of assembled denizens of Pyongyang, some in tight military-like formations, lamenting his death. Residence in that city, the capital, is carefully limited to those deemed faithful to the regime. Luxuries unavailable elsewhere are provided there.
An e-mail alert sent by STRATFOR on December 19 states that Kim died on
the morning of Dec. 17, according to an official North Korean News broadcast at noon Dec. 19. Initial reports say Kim died of a heart attack brought on by fatigue while on board a train. Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, and his health has been in question since.
He may have died shortly before the 17; official reports from the North are not usually very candid. In any event, the apparent two-day delay in the official death announcement — from the morning of December 17 until noon on December 19 — may be significant. If for nothing else, time was needed to ensure stability. Now, the country has essentially shut down:
Following the official announcement of Kim Jong Il’s death today, North Korea has imposed rigid social controls, including the complete closure of markets.
An inside source told Daily NK this lunchtime, “The jangmadang is closed and people are not allowed to go outside. Local Party secretaries are issuing special commands through local Union of Democratic Women unit chairwomen, and the chairwomen have been gathered at district offices for emergency meetings.”
According to the source, National Security Agency and People’s Safety Ministry agents have been deployed in streets and alleyways to control civilian movements. There have not been any signs of public unrest to date.
Kim Jong Il’s sudden death has apparently caught people off-guard, the source revealed, commenting, “Nobody had the slightest idea about the General’s death even right before they saw the broadcast. You can hear the sound of wailing outside.”
North Korea has also “urged an increase in its ‘military capability’ as the death of North Korea’s enigmatic leader Kim Jong Il spurred fresh security concerns in the tense region.” On the same days as Kim’s death was announced, North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles off its eastern coast. There has been little additional information from the provinces as to what else may be happening there in response to Kim’s death.
In South Korea,
President Lee Myung-bak canceled the rest of his Monday schedule and put all members of South Korea’s military on “emergency alert,” his office said. The two nations never signed a peace treaty following the Korean War of the early 1950s, leaving the two nations technically at war.
After an emergency Cabinet meeting Monday, Lee asked South Koreans “to go about their lives.”
“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.