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North Korea

Kim Jong-Un new North Korean leader after death of Kim Jong-Il

Reuters/Kyodo

North Korean state media has announced the death of leader Kim Jong-Il, aged 69, of a heart attack, plunging the deeply isolated nation into a second dynastic succession.

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Pyongyang has urged citizens to rally behind Swiss-educated Kim Jong-Un, who is in his late 20s and was last year made a four-star general and given top ruling party posts despite having had no public profile.

State television aired footage from Pyongyang of hysterical North Koreans, young and old alike, pounding the ground in a display of abject grief.

South Korea’s military is on emergency alert but the government has urged its people to
stay calm, and swiftly closed ranks with its close ally the United States.

The official Korean Central News Agency, KCNA, said Kim "passed away from a great mental and physical strain" at 8:30 am on Saturday (2330 GMT Friday), while travelling by train on one of his field trips.

Kim's funeral will be held on 28 December in Pyongyang but no foreign delegations will be invited, KCNA said. National mourning was declared from 17 - 29 December.

At the North Korean embassy in Beijing, the capital of its main ally China, the national flag was flying at half mast while China offered its "deep condolences".

North Korea's propaganda machine has rolled into action to build up the same personality cult for Jong-Un that surrounded his father and late grandfather Kim Il-Sung, the founder and "eternal leader" of North Korea who died in 1994.

Kim Jong-Il's only sister Kim Kyong-Hui and her husband Jang Song-Thaek, the country's unofficial number-two leader, are expected to act as the younger Kim's mentors and throw their weight behind the son's leadership.

Following the announcement, South Korea summoned a meeting of the National Security Council and President Lee Myung-Bak called an emergency cabinet meeting.

North and South Korea have remained technically at war since their three-year conflict ended only in an armistice in 1953. The United States stations 28,500 troops in the South.

Map of North and South Korea
Anthony Terrade/RFI

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