North Korea's former leader Kim Jong-il at Mansudae Apartment Complex in Pyongyang (October 2009). Photo credit: Alexandermacpherson
How’s North Korea coping with the sudden death of Kim Jung-il? Not very well at all is the answer. State television has been running footage of people weeping hopelessly and beating the pavement in grief at the news that the country’s Dear Leader (and unofficially titled Official Brain) has passed away. The reaction may seem frankly bizarre to Western observers but it must be remembered that North Korea’s militarised regime has established an incredibly powerful cult of personality around the Kim family. Kin Jung-il was widely considered to be as much a spiritual leader as a political one by the populace of the Hermit Kingdom.
The mourners perhaps took their lead from the newsreader on state television who announced the shock news. She broke down as she dropped the bomb-shell that Jong-il has died on a train from a heart attack.