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Summary Article: Kim Jong Il (1942–2011) from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

North Korean communist politician. He was national leader 1994 to 2011, when he succeeded his father, Kim Il Sung in what was the first dynastic succession in the communist world. Despite his official designation ‘Dear Leader’, he lacked his father's charisma and did not automatically inherit the public adulation accorded to him. In October 1997 he formally became general secretary of the ruling communist party, amid famine in North Korea. Kim was forced to allow some limited market economy reforms. Relations were tense with South Korea and the USA, which sought the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. His third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, succeeded him as national leader following his death in December 2011.

Kim Jong Il held a succession of senior party posts from the early 1960s. He was a member of the politburo from 1974 and its controlling inner presidium from 1980 and, although he had received no military training, was made commander-in-chief of the armed forces in 1991. The belief that he masterminded terrorist activities in the 1970s and 1980s made the West apprehensive about the succession. North Korea's economy declined in the 1990s, adversely affected by floods and droughts, and its trade was disrupted due to the collapse of the USSR and strained relations with China.

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