The supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, died on Saturday, according to Forbes magazine. He was killed by an apparent heart attack while on a train ride. The death was not reported by the state until Monday.
Kim Jong Il has reportedly suffered from several serious conditions including diabetes and pancreatic cancer. He also suffered from a stroke in 2008, and may have been undergoing dialysis at the time of his death.
Kim formally assumed power over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in October of 1997 when he became General Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party. About three years after his father Kim Il Sung’s death, he became the supreme leader.
In 1994, Kim Jong Il notably convinced the United States to sign an agreement preserving his nuclear program, and shortly after led North Korea through a famine that resulted in the deaths of as many as two million North Koreans. (Today, Beijing, China is thought to provide approximately 45 percent of the country’s food.)
The North remained destitute during Kim’s rule, scoring last or near the bottom on almost every human development index. Kim maintained his position within the regime by strengthening the hand of the Korean People’s Army. Due to lack of resources for traditional warfare, Kim had increasingly relied on unconventional weapons. The country conducted three long-range missile tests during Kim’s rule. Kim reportedly sold nuclear weapons and missile technologies in recent years to Iran and Syria.
In 2009, Kim declared his youngest son Kim Jong Un his successor, but Un may have to contend with his uncle Jang Song Thaek and his oldest brother Kim Jong Nam for a real position of power.
Kim is said to have had three wives, three sons and three daughters. Other reports have estimated he had about 70 children total, who he kept in villas throughout North Korea.
Read more about Kim Jong Il here.