Kim Jong Il Dead; Eyes on N. Korea's Heir Apparent

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Hours after news that North Korea's 69-year-old dictator, Kim Jong Il, died of a heart attack on a train, the government is urging its citizens to show their support for their deceased leader's heir apparent, Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Un, the youngest of Kim Jong Il's three sons, was chosen last year by his father to succeed him.

"His son is very young," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said of North Korea's 20-something heir apparent. "His son is very untested; his son is loyal to his father and to North Korea."

"But his son does not have the kind of credibility with the military because nobody really knows what he is going to be like," he added.

"Just because he's new, just because he's young, we have to assume he's going to be as bad and evil as his father was," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said.

Gordon Chang, author of 'Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World,' talks about Kim Jong Il's succesor and what to expect from one of the world's most tyrannical regimes. Watch below.

Madman and Tyrant

Inside North Korea, Kim Jong Il was known as the "Dear Leader." But there was little reason why 23 million North Koreans should have supported him.

He took power in 1994 after his own father, Kim Il-Sung, died. He proceeded to rule with an iron fist and was nothing short of a brutal dictator who reportedly loved his cigars, cognac, women and Hollywood movies.

While Kim lived up the lavish lifestyle, his countrymen suffered. North Korea's economy has been devastated since the early 1990s and millions of people live with famine.

He regularly spent North Korea's money on fleets of luxury cars, expensive watches, rockets, and built himself a nuclear program with enough plutonium for six nuclear bombs.

"I think it's important to keep in mind that North Korea is basically an organized crime family posing as a government," King said. "Kim Jong Il was a madman and a tyrant."

S. Korea, U.S. on Alert

Now there are fears of instability in the region following his death.

"This is the single largest militarily-armed zone in the world," Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said. "It has been thus for decades and right now we're at one of those critical junctures in post-1950 military history."

Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who has made several high-profile visits to North Korea, warned that the situation could become "extremely volatile."

"What the North Korean military does in the next 24 to 48 hours will be decisive," he said.

South Korea has ordered its military on emergency alert. U.S. forces in the South are also on stepped up surveillance. 

The U.S. had expected to decide this week whether to re-engage North Korea in nuclear talks and provide the nation with food aid. Officials now say the U.S. will likely delay the process.

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George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Sr. Reporter

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