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From Miraculous Birth to ‘Axis of Evil’: Kim Jong Il Timeline

Kim Jong Il when he was a Student in 1963
This October 1963 photo from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, distributed by Korea News Service, shows Kim Jong Il, the late North Korean leader, when he was a student of Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. Photographer: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP Images

North Korea ends 12 days of official mourning today for Kim Jong Il, the dictator eulogized by his nation’s state media as “Dear Leader.”

Kim died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, brought on by exhaustion as he traveled the country by train offering guidance to his people, according to the official account of his passing.

Below is a timeline of notable events during the life of Kim, showing the contrast between the persona crafted by his state media and the accounts of outsiders and the international press.

Feb. 16, 1942: Born at a secret military camp on Mount Paektu, revered as the birthplace of the Korean people. His birth was prophesied by a swallow, and heralded by a double rainbow over the mountain, according to official accounts.

Records from the former Soviet Union show he was born on Feb. 16, 1941, in Siberia, where his father trained as part of a guerrilla resistance to Japanese rule.

1950-1960: Receives a general education in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, his official biography says.

Foreign researchers say he is more likely to have received some of his early schooling in China, shielded from the Korean War, which ended in 1953.

September 1960: Admitted to Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, where he studies works including “The Communist Manifesto” and “Das Kapital.” He finds limitations in the theories of Marx and begins teaching others that his father, Kim Il Sung, is the “top intellect of the revolution,” according to the biography.

July 1961: Joins the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.

June 1964: Joins the party’s Central Committee.

May 10, 1971: Birth of his first son, Kim Jong Nam, to the late North Korean film star Song Hye Rim. Details on the lives of Kim’s mistresses, who are not included in his official history, have been recounted by defectors including Song’s sister.

September 1973: Takes charge of the party’s propaganda division.

February 1974: Workers’ Party and begins calling Kim “Dear Leader.”

1978: Kim Has South Korean actress Choi Eun Hi and her director husband Shin Sang Ok abducted and brought to North Korea to build the local movie industry, according to Yonhap News.

October 1980: The Rodong newspaper celebrates Kim’s continued rise within the Workers’ Party in an editorial that proclaims: “Christians, do not go to Jerusalem. Come rather to Korea. Do not believe in God. Believe in the great man.”

1983 or 1984: Birth of his third son and eventual successor, Kim Jong Un. The younger Kim’s birthday and information about his mother have not been given in official accounts. She was a Japanese-born ethnic Korean who became Kim Jong Il’s second mistress after he saw her dancing, according to an account by Kim’s former Japanese sushi chef.

October 1983: Bombing in Myanmar kills 17 South Koreans, including three ministers, in an attack that was the work of North Korean agents carrying out instructions from Kim, according to the government in Seoul.

November 1987: Korean Air Flight 858 explodes in mid-air, killing all 155 passengers on board. A North Korean agent who confessed to South Korean authorities of planting the bomb said the order came from “Dear Leader himself,” on a hand-written memo.

December 1991: Kim is appointed Supreme Commander of the North Korean army.

April 1993: Kim becomes the chairman of the National Defense Commission.

July 8, 1994: Kim Il Sung dies at age 82.

1997: Hwang Jang Yop, who taught Kim Jong Il at university and helped craft the regime’s “Juche” ideology that stresses self reliance, defects to South Korea, according to the government in Seoul.

October 1997: Assumes roles as General Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party.

August 1998: North Korea says it succeeds in putting satellite into orbit.

Foreign governments say Kim’s regime test-fired a three-stage, long range missile that flew over Japan before landing in the Pacific Ocean.

June 1998: Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju Yung herds cattle across the border in a symbolic gesture to repay a debt to his own father and help North Korea cope with famine.

June 2000: Kim and then South Korean President Kim Dae Jung hold a summit in Pyongyang, marking the first meeting between leaders of the divided peninsula.

October 2000: Tells U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Pyongyang that “if there’s no confrontation, there’s no significance to weapons.”

July 2001: Travels to Moscow by train for talks with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Stops several times en route to restock with French wines and live lobsters, according to Konstantin Pulikovsky, a Russian envoy who traveled with Kim and recounted the trip in his book “The Orient Express.”

January 2002: U.S. President George W. Bush names Kim’s regime as part of an “axis of evil” that also includes Iran and Iraq

September 2002: Meets Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Koizumi discusses North Korean missile tests and charges that it abducted Japanese citizens, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

Five Japanese kidnapped by Kim’s agents in 1978 were reunited with their families a month later while the remaining seven had died due to accident or illnesses, NHK said.

January 2003: The U.S. and its allies suspend fuel-oil shipments to North Korea after the communist nation says it has a nuclear weapons program and withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

October 2006: Kim’s regime tests a nuclear device, then later agrees to return to negotiations on the condition the U.S. agrees to discuss lifting financial sanctions.

October 2007: Kim meets Kim Dae Jung’s successor, Roh Moo Hyun, in the second summit in Pyongyang between leaders of the two Koreas.

Sept. 2008: Kim isn’t sighted at a military parade in Pyongyang amid reports from foreign governments and press that his health may be failing.

May 2009: North Korea says it conducted a second nuclear test and also launched three short-range missiles, acts U.S. President Barack Obama says are “a grave threat to the peace and security of the world.”

March 2010: Forty-six sailors die when South Korea’s 1,200-ton Cheonan patrol boat sinks near the maritime border with North Korea. An international investigation concludes it was sunk by torpedo from Kim’s military.

State media denies any involvement by North Korea.

August 2010: Kim makes his second trip to China in less than four months, visiting areas associated with his father’s days as an independence fighter against the Japanese.

South Korean and international reports note the trip followed flooding that wiped out crops in a country battered by United Nations sanctions, imposed in response to ballistic-missile and nuclear tests.

February 2011: The Rodong newspaper praises Kim for his will to build a “strong and prosperous country” in the spirit of his father.

A month later the World Food Program releases a report that says more than six million people are in urgent need of international food assistance.

Dec. 17, 2011: Kim Jong Il dies after giving his life’s energy “for prosperity of the socialist homeland,” the Korean Central News Agency reports.

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