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Kim Jong Il

December 20, 2011
According to his obituary in The Times, North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il hired a personal sushi chef from Tokyo and a personal pizza chef from Italy even as his country suffered through a famine that killed as many as 2 million of his people. He kept a library of 20,000 movies for his own entertainment although ordinary citizens could be sent to prison camps for watching South Korean or American movies. He beat back economic reforms and led North Korea's economy to the brink of collapse while building a nuclear weapons program opposed by the rest of the world.
December 19, 2011 | By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times
For months, the Obama administration had been working quietly to resume talking with North Korea about its nuclear ambitions. U.S. diplomats had pressed the North Koreans to suspend their uranium enrichment activities, seen as a first step toward wider nuclear talks. In return, Washington was offering to resume food and other humanitarian aid to a country perennially struggling to feed itself. But Kim Jong Il's abrupt death appears to have put the brakes on that fitful diplomatic momentum.
December 19, 2011 | By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times
Trains stopped running. Markets closed. In at least one city, officials urged people to get off the streets and soldiers were everywhere. It is rarely easy to find out what's happening inside North Korea. On the cold Monday when officials announced the death of "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il, the few reports trickling out of the country indicated that the country of 24 million people shut down for a time. No signs of unrest were reported. But faced with making the transition to Kim's largely untested young son, the power structure appeared to be taking no chances.
December 19, 2011 | By Don Lee and David Pierson, Los Angeles Times
The unexpected death of North Korea's cult-like leader has added a new layer of risk in Asia, a region that has generally been a bright spot in a slowing global economy. Underscoring that concern, stock markets in South Korea and elsewhere in Asia sank on the news Monday that Kim Jong Il had died at age 69, ending two decades of rule marked by devastating famine at home and skirmishes with South Korea, the U.S. and other countries over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Although experts expect Asian stocks to recover fairly quickly, some also warned of more potential financial shocks as North Korea, one of the world's poorest and most repressed countries, embarks on a dicey dynastic transition from "Dear Leader" to his young and inexperienced son, Kim Jong Un. PHOTOS: Kim Jong Il | 1942-2011 "I think we will be entering a period of heightened uncertainty, a possibility of more bad things happening … like another nuclear test, and those could disrupt regional markets," said Marcus Noland, an economist and North Korea expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
December 19, 2011 | By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il left the family business in terrible shape. Under his leadership over the last 17 years, about 2 million people, almost 10% of his country's population, died of hunger. North Korea developed nuclear weapons, but its people sank ever deeper into poverty and isolation, even while patron and next-door neighbor China charged ahead with its economic miracle. His youngest son, Kim Jong Un, was only recently named to succeed him and is still in his 20s. He has before him what seems an impossible task for a baby-faced young man who just a decade ago was attending high school in Switzerland: Rescue a failed state, and perpetuate the family dynasty into a third generation.
December 19, 2011 | Barbara Demick and John M. Glionna
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the mercurial strongman who styled himself as a "Dear Leader" while ruling over an impoverished police state, died at 69, according to North Korean state media. Kim was believed to have suffered from multiple chronic illnesses, but his death -- reportedly from a heart attack while traveling by train Saturday morning -- was sudden. He had been grooming a son to succeed him, and his death creates uncertainty about the future direction of a nation with few international friends but a nuclear weapons capability.
December 19, 2011 | By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times
Like many in Los Angeles' small North Korean community, Kevin Song has long avoided speaking of the "Dear Leader. " Kim Jong Il's name evoked too many painful memories and stirred too many intense opinions among those who fled the hermitic nation. A couple of years ago, when mention of the North Korean ruler came up over beers in a Koreatown pub, Song ended up in a barroom brawl with a fellow defector. On Monday, as the news of Kim's passing settled in, Song and other North Korean expatriates grappled with complicated emotions.
December 18, 2011 | By Barbara Demick and John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the mercurial strongman extolled at home as the "Dear Leader" and reviled abroad as a tyrant, has died at 69, North Korean media reported Monday. Kim's death was announced by state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. No cause of death was reported, but Kim was believed to have suffered in recent years from diabetes and heart disease. The diminutive leader was believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but nonetheless appeared in numerous photos released by state media as he toured state facilities and in recent months embarked on rare trips outside North Korea -?
December 8, 2011 | By Robert Carlin and John W. Lewis
The legacy of the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung's decision in the early 1990s to pursue a strategic partnership with the United States has run its course. In its place, the focus of Pyongyang's policies has decisively shifted to Beijing. However wary the North Koreans may be of their neighbor, the fact is that from Pyongyang's viewpoint, the Chinese have delivered and the United States did not. Any shards remaining from the North's previous, decades-long effort to normalize ties with the U.S. were swept away by current leader Kim Jong Il's trip in May to China, his third in barely a year.
October 9, 2011 | By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times
On a Sunday evening in August, a middle-aged South Korean pastor collapsed suddenly near a taxi stand in Dandong, a Chinese city on the Yalu River overlooking North Korea. The 46-year-old, who used the name Patrick Kim, had a discolored complexion, spots on his fingers and limbs, flecks of foam on his mouth. He was dead by the time he reached the hospital. The pastor was a human rights activist who secretly helped people slip out of North Korea into China. And his family and South Korean diplomats believe he was killed by North Korean agents in retaliation.
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