According to Reuters, North Korean state television has announced that the country’s dictator, Kim Jong Il, has died at the age of 69. Details of the death are still hard to come by, but there are reports that Kim Jong Il died of exhaustion while riding a train. If true, and there is no reason to doubt the announcement at this point, it marks the greatest political event in the country since he succeeded his father in 1994.

It is likely that leadership of the country will now fall to Kim Jong Un, the dictator’s third son. Kim Jong Un was positioned to be his father’s successor in September of last year. Given the young age of Kim Jong Un, and that his entry into politics occurred only recently, there is the real worry that the death of Kim Jong Il will destabilize the isolated autocracy and even create the possibility of a military coup by party leaders. South Korea is taking no chances, putting its military on alert within minutes of the announcement.

Stay tuned. The Korean peninsula is poised to enter into a volatile period.

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