North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dies
SEOUL - Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic leader, has died. He was 69.
Kim's death was announced Monday by the state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country, carefully documented by state media.
The leader, reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.
The news came as North Korea prepared for a hereditary succession.
Kim Jong Il inherited power after his father, revered North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994.
In September 2010, Kim Jong Il unveiled his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor, putting him in high-ranking posts.
South Korea has put its military on "high alert" and President Lee Myung-bak has convened a national security council meeting after the news of Kim's death.
The two Koreas remain technically in a state of war more than 50 years after the peninsula's Cold War-era armed conflict ended in a cease-fire.