Kim Jong-il, Last Stalinian Dictator, Dies at 69

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il dies of heart attack

By Hubert Ancelot, Staff Writer

Kim Jong-Il

A ten-day period of mourning throughout North Korea was ordered following the announcement of the death of the enigmatic leader. It was announced on Monday, December 19, 2011, that Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack on Saturday, December 17, 2011, on the North Korean state television. The legacy of one of the most mocked and feared leader was brought to an end.

Kim Jong-il took power in July 1994, after the death of his father and founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung.  Kim Jong-il affirmed early in his reign an even more authoritarian stance than his father by securing the military branch of the government, and later absorbing all branches of power. Continuing the legacy of his father, he adopted the same method: the cult of personality. All aspects of life were monitored in North Korea, and million-people marches were organised to hail the leader who was thought of having saved the people from an abiding capitalism. In the Western popular conscience however, he was especially known for his eccentric tastes while leaving his people starving. In the end, the outcome of fifteen years of absolute power resulted in a weak and desolated society divided from the rest of the world.

The leader faced the collapse of the North Korean economy in the mid-1990s. Famines spread due to the mismanagement of vital resources and due to the government’s incapacity of adjusting to the natural disasters the country was facing. Kim Jong-il was notably responsible for the ‘Military-First Policy’, which orientated the great part of the budget towards the military. Also, a timid policy of rapprochement with South Korea was attempted multiple times without any tangible results. The ten-year long South Korean ‘Sunshine Policy’ planned sustained financial aid to North Korea, but was dubbed as a failure in late 2010 when it became apparent that North Korea was not allocating funds to the impoverished farmers, but to the military.

Kim Jong-il will be remembered for its tenacity in front of the international community in his pursuit of the North Korean nuclear program withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003. Following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, North Korea was included in the Axis of Evil by the Bush Administration, which fostered its present isolationism.

On the human aspect, it is well-known that North Korea keeps scores of families in prison camps notorious for their extreme methods. It is estimated that 200,000 people are retained in these camps where death is frequent. Today, Amnesty International expressed its concern that the brutality towards the people will be intensified in the following months as Kim Jung-un, the heir apparent, is expected to use repressive actions in order to assert his authority over the population.

Indeed, the greatest test of the new supreme leader will be a smooth transition of power. Little is known about the third son of Kim Jong-il, or even why he was chosen over his older brothers. The eldest was arrested with a fake passport on his way to Tokyo, while the middle one was thought to be ‘too feminine’ for the role. According to military officials, Kim Jong-un’s personality seemed to be the most in line with his father’s and his involvement in foreign affairs has been attracting attention, notably from China, which quickly approved of the new leader.

Strategists now apprehend that North Korea will use the military weapon as a way for Kim Jung-un to affirm his leadership in the world and in North Korea. The announcement of a new series of tests is especially feared. Few hope for a more open North Korea, and the mystery the democratic republic immersed itself in for the last 50 years is the reason why the international community turns to North Korea with the most clueless look.

Arbitrage Magazine
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