Just a moment ago, the world learned that Kim Jong-il, supreme regent of his dead father's necrocracy, creator of famines, and would-be owner of a nation's souls, is dead, dead, dead. The Times had its obituary up in minutes. They've been waiting for this a long time. Lots of people have.
From the Times:
SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Jong-il, the reclusive North Korean leader who has been battling ill health following a reported stroke in 2008, has died, the North’s official news media reported on Monday.
“Our great leader Comrade Kim Jong-il passed away at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 17,” Korean Central TV reported.
… Called the “Dear Leader” by his people, Mr. Kim, the son of North Korea’s founder, remained an unknowable figure. Everything about him was guesswork, from the exact date and place of his birth, to the mythologized events of his rise in a country formed by the hasty division of the Korean Peninsula at the end of World War II.
North Koreans heard about him only as their “peerless leader” and “the great successor to the revolutionary cause.” Yet he fostered what was perhaps the last personality cult in the Communist world. His portrait hangs beside that of his father, Kim Il-sung, in every North Korean household and building. Towers, banners and even rock faces across the country bear slogans praising him.
That business will probably go on a while. CNN just announced that there will be a state funeral in Pyongyang on December 28th. It will undoubtedly be one of the greatest pageants of all time, though many North Koreans will be celebrating for more reasons than their state TV will let on.
Behind the scenes, old veteran generals of Kim Jong-il's administration will likely spar with the deceased despot's son and heir apparent, the 20-something-year-old Kim Jong-un, for control of the country's decrepit infrastructure, hungry masses, defective rockets, nuclear warheads, and outsized military. There's no telling what kind of North Korea will eventuate. Whatever comes, though, almost anything will be better than what's come before.