North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has died aged 69 of a heart attack, state media announced Monday, plunging the nuclear-armed and deeply isolated nation into a second dynastic succession.
Pyongyang urged people to rally behind Kim’s youngest son, Jong-Un, describing him as the “great successor” to the leader who presided over a famine that saw hundreds of thousands die, but still built an atomic arms arsenal.
State television, which delivered the news in a tearful announcement by a news reader, aired footage of hysterical North Koreans pounding the ground in a display of grief.
South Korea put its military on alert but urged people to stay calm, and swiftly closed ranks with its ally, the US. However, analysts said there was no immediate danger of a conflict.
The official Korean Central News Agency said the “Dear Leader” died Saturday of a “severe myocardial infarction along with a heart attack”. He suffered a stroke in August 2008 that triggered an acceleration in succession plans.
The funeral will be held on December 28 in Pyongyang but no foreign delegations will be invited. National mourning was declared until December 29.
The announcement also urged the people to support the Swiss-educated Jong-Un, who is in his late 20s and was last year made a four-star general and given top ruling party posts.
Kim, a film buff, was a fan of the Rambo and Godzilla movies, according to The Telegraph newspaper in London. Quoting his official biographers, it said his birth in 1941 was prophesied by a swallow and heralded with a double rainbow and a new star.