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Sunday
Dec182011

North Korea's Kim Jong Il Dead

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has died, according to North Korea state television.  He was 69.

"The news reader appeared wearing black, which was unusual, looking very somber -- almost in tears," the BBC's Lucy Williamson reported Sunday night from Seoul. "[The North Korean reporter] didn't get through the first few sentences without her voice breaking. She said that Kim Jung Il, the leader, had died on Dec. 17, on Saturday, early in the morning -- about 8:30 a.m."

Reports say Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack while traveling by train.

While the Obama administration could not immediately confirm Kim's death, the White House issued a statement Sunday evening saying U.S. officials are keeping a close eye on the developments.

"We are closely monitoring reports that Kim Jong Il is dead," a statement from the White House said. "The President has been notified, and we are in close touch with our allies in South Korea and Japan. We remain committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies."

Kim reportedly suffered a stroke in 2008 and was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.

"Under his leadership, North Korea poured funds into its military and an aggressive nuclear weapons program," ABC's Gloria Riviera reported Sunday upon the news of Kim's death. "North Korea paid the price. Widespread famine throughout the '90s killed an estimated two million people."

"In 1998, he stunned the world by conducting a missile test with rockets the CIA said could reach the U.S.," Riviera said. "By October 2006, North Korea had conducted its first successful underground nuclear test."

Kim Jong Il inherited his power when his father, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994.

In 2010, Kim Jong Il designated his third son, Kim Jong Un, as his successor.

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