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Kim Jong-il

Political Figure

Born: c. 1941
Died: 2011 (Natural causes)
Birthplace: Siberia, Soviet Union (now Russia)
Best known as:

The dictatorial leader of North Korea, 1994-2011

Kim Jong-il was the powerful leader of North Korea from 1994 until his death in 2011. He became North Korea's maximum leader after the death of his father, longtime dictator Kim Il-sung. North Korea's government is secretive, and little was known about Kim Jong-il even after his many years in power. While his father ruled, Kim had a reputation as a spoiled playboy who vainly wore platform shoes to appear taller. After his father's death in 1994, Kim Jong-il managed to retain power (although he did not assume his father's titles until 1997, when he was named secretary of the Communist Party). By that time North Korea had become one of the most isolated countries in the world, with frequent famines and an economy in a shambles. Kim's attempts to acquire nuclear weapons for North Korea are no secret, and in 2002 U.S. president George W. Bush declared North Korea to be part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq. In later years, Kim continued to carry on strained relations with South Korea and the rest of the world, while also apparently battling undisclosed health problems. He reportedly suffered a stroke in 2008, and died three years later, at age 69 (according to official North Korean reports) or age 70 (according to western intelligence analysts).  Initial reports from North Korea were that he would be succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un.

Extra credit:

Kim Jong-il was known to his subjects as "Dear Leader," while his father was called "Great Leader"... Kim's official biography said he was born on 16 February 1942, in a log cabin on Korea's Mount Paekdu. However, many experts believe he was born in 1941 in the Soviet Union, where Kim Il-sung was living in exile... According to political specialist Dr. Jerold Post, as quoted on CNN, Kim stood 5'2" tall, preferred Hennessey cognac, and owned a collection of 20,000 movies which included the complete James Bond series.

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More on Kim Jong-il from Infoplease:

  • Kim Jong Il: meaning and definitions - Kim Jong Il: Definition and Pronunciation
  • Kim Jong-il - Biography of Kim Jong-il, The dictatorial leader of North Korea, 1994-2011
  • Year in Review, 2008 - An overview of what was learned about North Korea's nuclear weapons program during 2008.|2008 news of the world from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe
  • Year in Review, 2010 - A synopsis of North Korea's provocative actions in 2010 against South Korea|Major World News Stories of 2010
  • Year in Review, 2012 - An update on North Korea and the death of Kim Jong-il|A Look at Kim Jong-Un's First Year as Leader of North Korea
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