North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, an iron-fisted ruler cast as a villain by Western heads of state, is dead at 69.
Jong Il "passed away from a great mental and physical strain" while riding a train on Saturday at 8:30 p.m., reported South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoting an official dispatch from North Korea. He was notoriously averse to flying and insisted on rail travel when travelling long distance.
The ruler -- who died at either 69 or 70 according to conflicting news reports -- has run North Korea since the 1994 death of his father, Kim Il Sung. His power over North Korea's citizens was absolute and his lifestyle was lavish to the extreme.
The country is ruled in dynastic fashion with one of Jong Il's sons, the twentysomething Kim Jong Un, appointed as his successor.
The Stalinist state has deep enmity for its estrnged sibling South Korea, a captalist nation North Korean propaganda deems a "puppet state" of the "imperialist" United States.
As of Sunday evening Eastern Standard Time, North Korea's official propaganda Web site was shut down and posting a "service temporarily unavailable" notice.