Kim Il Sung [key], 1941?–2011, was groomed as his successor. Active in the Korean Workers' party leadership from 1964, Kim Jong Il became secretary of its central committee in 1973. In 1991 he was appointed supreme commander of the armed forces. Upon his father's death, Kim Jong Il took over leadership of the country. He was named secretary of the Communist party in 1997 and consolidated his power with the title of National Defense Commission chairman in 1998. Although Kim established relations with a number of Western nations, easing the North's diplomatic isolation, and hosted meetings with South Korean presidents Kim Dae Jung (2000) and Roh Moo Hyun (2007), he did not reciprocate with a visit to the South, and the North developed nuclear weapons and provoked international crises to win desperately needed food and other aid.
In 2010, due to ill health, the “Dear Leader” moved to secure the succession for his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, 1984?–, whose name is sometimes transliterated Kim Jong Eun. He attended school in Switzerland and Kim Il Sung Military Univ. (2002–7), but was largely unseen in public until 2009, when he was named to the National Defense Commission and appointed chief of the State Security Dept. In 2010 he was promoted to four-star general and shortly afterward named to the Workers' party central committee and became vice chairman of its central military commission. He was named to succeed his father when the latter died in 2011, and officially became first secretary of the party and its central military commission as well as chairman of the National Defense Commission (reconstituted as the State Affairs Commission, 2016) in 2012; later that year he was made a marshal. In 2016 he was named party chairman. He purged and executed a number of high-ranking officials in subsequent years. He also has moved forward aggressively to develop the country's nuclear weapons and missile technologies and encouraged economic growth through the tolerance of limited market-oriented changes. He was formally recognized head of state in 2019 and named party general secretary in 2021.
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