On This Day

Kim Jong-il

Supreme Leader and Dictator of North Korea Kim Jong-il

Profession: Supreme Leader and Dictator of North Korea

Nationality:
North Korea
North Korean

Why Famous: The eldest son of North Korean supreme Leader Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il had been groomed to succeed his father from an early age.

In 1994 after his father's death, Kim Jong-il worked to gain similar control, becoming General Secretary of the Worker's Party in 1997 and chairman of the National Defense Commission in 1998, the country's highest post.

During the 1990s North Korea under Kim Jong-il experienced famine, an estimated 300,00 died when floods and the loss its ally the Soviet Union took their tool. Some market reforms and its relationship with China later led to some recovery.

North Korea's nuclear program caused international tensions. US President George W. Bush named the country one of the "axis of evil" and an underground nuclear test was announced by the regime in 2006. In 2007 North Korea signed an agreement to curtail its nuclear program in return for international economic assistance but by 2009 had restarted it.

Throughout his time in power Kim Jong-il drew on and increased the cult of personality that had surrounded his father. He had a passion for cinema and in 1978 he had South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and actress Choi Eun-hee, his wife, kidnapped to revive the North Korean film industry. Kim Jong-il was also reputedly obsessed with Elvis Presley and based his distinctive quiff hairstyle on the singer's.

He was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un.

Born: February 16, 1942
Birthplace: Yatskoye, Russia, Soviet Union [disputed birth place]

Generation: Silent Generation
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
Star Sign: Aquarius

Died: December 17, 2011 (aged 69)
Cause of Death: Suspected heart attack

Events in the Life of Kim Jong-il

  • 2000-06-13 South Korean President Kim Dae Jung meets leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il, for the beginning of the first ever inter-Korea summit, in the northern capital of Pyongyang
  • 2007-10-02 President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea walks across the Military Demarcation Line into North Korea on his way to the second Inter-Korean Summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il
  • 2009-08-04 Kim Jong-il meets former president Bill Clinton. He pardons and releases captured American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling who were found guilty of entering the country illegally.

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