It has not been a very good year for dictators. In 2011 we saw the fall of the Libian dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the so-called President of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egiptian president Mubarak. Now the time has come for the 70 year old North-Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il to clear "the throne". The official Korean Central News Agency stated that Kim Jong II passed away due to "great mental and physical strain" after a 17 year state tenure.
Lee Myung-bak, the South-Korean president canceled all appointments and convened an emergency security session. As a result all police officers in South-Korea were called to work for emergency duty and the military is discussing whether to raise its "watchcon" and "defcon" levels.
His successor will most likely be his son Kim Jong Un, the youngest of Kim Jong-il's three sons. As reported by the local media, during his illness the former leader has promoted his younger sister, Kim Kyong-hui, and her husband, Chang Sung-taek, on state leadership positions which would allow them to look after the relatively inexperienced Kim Jong Un. More from FT:
In Japan, Yoshihiko Noda, prime minister, cancelled a planned speech and returned to the premier’s residence to confer with advisers. The government’s chief spokesman, Osamu Fujimura, said Tokyo was working to confirm the North Korean announcement and that officials were in close touch with their counterparts in Seoul and Washington. Japan put its coast guard on alert.
South Korean officials have consistently identified the death of Kim Jong-il as one of the events that could accelerate the unification of the peninsula that has been divided since 1945.
Shares on Seoul’s Kospi index fell 3 per cent by 1pm. However, South Korean markets often regard unexpected news from the North as a buying opportunity.