Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:10 PM EDT, 26 December 2011
PYONGYANG, North Korea — Kim Jong-il, “supreme leader” of North Korea died on Saturday, 17 December 2010, purportedly from a heart attack at the age of 69. Although the suffered abject deprivation and human rights abuses under his reign; news broadcasts from state official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) displayed throngs of people wailing and crying in the streets more than a week after his death.
On Tuesday the scene was much more dignified and solemn as the North Korean people and foreign dignitaries prepare for the succession of his twenty-year old son Kim Jong-un. A solemn procession of people filed past the body on display in a glass coffin at the in the capital, Pyongyang to pay their last respects.
Kim Jong-il’s passing was a shock and possible bad omen as his death comes days before the beginning of 2012. The regime has promoted next year as the point at which the country would achieve development and prosperity. This vision is at odds with the starvation, torture and prison camps which we described as ‘North Korean Gulags,’ where an estimated 200,000 people are imprisoned in harrowing and horrific conditions.
The KCNA urged the nation's people and military to rally behind and "faithfully revere" the soon to be figure head. Kim Jong-un has been pronounced the "supreme leader" of the 1.2-million strong military, also known as “the revolutionary armed forces." This haste to install him even before the mourning period has passed is a disquieting foreshadowing of a country that could easily fall under greater military control because of a weak successor.
Kim Jong-un made a third visit Saturday to the palace where his father's body is lying in state — this time accompanied by North Korea's top military leaders. Since Kim’s reported stroke in 2008, he had begun to groom Kim Jong-un to take control of the insular state, appointing him a general last year and giving him several high profile roles. Kim Jong-il’s death will also be felt far beyond North Korea's 24 million populations.
The White House said that President Barak Obama is monitoring the situation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton attended the funeral. North Korea has been an international concern because of its nuclear and missiles programs. Seoul's said leaders had declared an emergency alert following Kim's death and widespread anxiety about potential instability and the implications of the change in leadership.
Chung Young-tae, of the Korea Institute of National Unification, told Reuters: "Any prospect for a strong and prosperous country is now gone. There is a big possibility that a power struggle may happen. It's likely the military will support Kim Jong-un” but that has yet to be determined. Right now it appears the military will continue to wield control over the people to keep them in line and prevent any potential uprising during this tumultuous time.