North Korean media has reported that long-time leader Kim Jong-Il died.[/font]
State television reported on Monday that he died on Saturday and the announcer said the cause was "physical and mental over-work".
The official news agency KCNA said Kim died on board a train during one of his field trips outside the capital.
Meanwhile, the Yonhap news agency said the South Korean military has been placed on emergency alert, as shares on the stock market in Seoul fell nearly five per cent.
South Korea's presidential Blue House has also called an emergency National Security Council meeting
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 comes as North Korea prepares for a hereditary succession. 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.
"Just a couple of days ago, it was publicised that he was visiting a military installation," Don Kirk of the Christian Science Monitor told Al Jazeera.
"Obviously there will be a long period of pubilc mourning in the country, but the sense is that at least he organised his succession with [his son] Kim Jong-Un taking over."
"The country looks stable, but whether it will remain stable is not clear," he said
Kim, 69, took power in 1994 upon the death of his father, Kim Il-Sung, the first leader of the country.
Pyongyang is due to celebrate the milestone 100th birthday of Kim Il-Sung in April 2012.
His greatest moment may have come on June 15, 2000, when he hosted the first summit of the leaders of the two Koreas when then South Korean Kim Dae-jung visited Pyongyang.
Kim’s image was transformed from a feared and mysterious leader to a kind-hearted host who had the world knocking on his door. A landmark summit with then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian President Vladimir Putin soon followed the visit by South Korea’s president.
The ray of sunshine out of the North then came to an end.
In 2002, tension rose after Washington said Pyongyang had admitted to pursuing a nuclear arms programme in violation of a 1994 agreement that was to have frozen its atomic ambitions.
North Korea expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in December 2002 and said in January 2003 it was quitting the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In February 2005, North Korea said it had nuclear weapons and in October 2006, it rattled the region by exploding a nuclear device. North Korea conducted a second nuclear test in May 2009.
Kim Jong-il reportedly told visitors that it was the dying wish of his father to see the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons and he wanted to work toward that end, but he first wanted to see the United States treat his state with respect.
Tensions heightened to their highest levels in years in 2010 with the torpedoing of a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors. The South blamed the attack on Pyongyang, but North denied responsibility. Later that year, the North bombarded a South Korean island, the first such attack against civilian target since the 1950-53 Korean War.
This year, Kim’s health appeared to have improved and he visibly gained weight. He visited China twice and travelled to Russia for the first time in nearly a decade.
Kim has three known sons. He is believed to have anointed the youngest, Kim Jong-un, to succeed himSouth Korea’s military has been put on emergency alert following the report of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s death, Yonhap news agency said on Monday.
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