North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il Dead at 69, State Media Report

BY Dave Gustafson  December 18, 2011 at 11:52 PM EDT

Kim Jong-il, the enigmatic dictator of North Korea, has died, state television announced Monday. He was 69.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency said Kim died at 8:30 a.m. Saturday of “a great mental and physical strain” on a train “during a field guidance tour.”

Called “Dear Leader” by North Koreans, the reclusive Kim reportedly had a stroke three years ago and slipped further out of public view. However, he appeared in better health during later trips to Russia and China.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released a statement late Sunday in Washington:

We are closely monitoring reports that Kim Jong Il is dead. The President has been notified, and we are in close touch with our allies in South Korea and Japan. We remain committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies.

The news was already being felt in North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang and elsewhere in Asia, according to The Associated Press:

In September 2010, Kim Jong Il unveiled his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor, putting him in high-ranking posts.

Traffic in the North Korean capital was moving as usual Monday, but people in the streets were in tears as they learned the news of Kim’s death. A foreigner contacted at Pyongyang’s Koryo Hotel said hotel staff were in tears.

Asian stock markets moved lower amid the news, which raises the possibility of increased instability on the divided Korean peninsula.

Kim inherited power after the death of his father Kim Il Sung, who founded the country. The Wall Street Journal offers an interactive graphic of the Kim family and a liveblog of news of Kim’s death.

Last year, Margaret Warner spoke with Katy Oh of the Institute for Defense Analyses and Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times about the eventual leadership succession in North Korea:

Earlier this year, Margaret and her team traveled to South Korea where they reported on how residents there find peace despite constant threats from their nearby neighbors to the north. Find all their coverage here.

The BBC explains more about Kim’s lineage:

The world’s only hereditary communist ruler, he was criticised for flagrant human rights abuses and for threatening the stability of the region by pursuing a nuclear weapons programme and testing long-range missiles.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency outlined the funeral plans:

Kim’s body will be placed in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where the embalmed body of his father and North Korea founder Kim Il-sung lies, according to the KCNA. The North set a mourning period from Dec. 17 to Dec. 29, though it said it won’t accept foreign delegations at the funeral ceremony scheduled to be held in Pyongyang on Dec. 28.

More resources from the NewsHour and Frontline:

Teresa Gorman contributed to this report.

We’ll have more on the news of Kim’s death and the future of North Korea on Monday’s NewsHour’s website and broadcast. Stay tuned.