Kim Jong-il is Dead

early family portrait

In what seems to be the Year of Oppressive Humans/Dictators Dying (see also: Osama bin Laden, Qaddafi), it was announced today on state television coming from North Korean capital Pyongyang that the psychopathic “Dear Leader” of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, has died. The apparent cause of death is “fatigue.”

The Wall Street Journal describes Jong-il as a dictator “who used fear and isolation to maintain power in North Korea and the threat of nuclear weapons to menace his neighbors and the U.S.” Gawker describes him as a “terrifying crackpot leader.”

Kim Jong il has been in power of North Korea since his father, “guerilla fighter-turned-politician” Kim il-Sung‘s death in 1994. Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, will be the new leader of the Communist country. In 2009 it was rumored that Jong-un had been drinking heavily since his mother’s death and was now “overweight and may be saddled with health problems like diabetes and heart disease due to lack of exercise.”

His eldest son, Kim Jon-nam, was disqualified from succession in 2001 when he was caught trying to get into Japan allegedly to visit the Tokyo Disney Resort, using a forged Dominican Republic passport. He was deported to the People’s Republic of China. In 2000, Jon-nam’s aunt had said that Jon-nam “does not wish to succeed his father” and that he was “interested in film.”

It has been speculated that 30-year-old Kim Jong-chul, Kim’s middle son, was deemed “too effeminate to rule the nation” which led to some “unofficial speculation about his sexual orientation.” Earlier this year Jong-chul was allegedly spotted in Singapore, attending an Eric Clapton concert.

All North Korean media is censored by the government, and very little is known for sure about life in the isolated country. Therefore little is known about LGBT rights in North Korea.

Same-sex marriage is not legal, and some defectors have said that there’s a great deal of pressure on gay North Koreans to marry an opposite sex partner. Voice of America’s Korean Service says that all talk of homosexuality is forbidden. It’s believed that in North Korea, homosexuality is one of many factors blamed for the West’s “moral decay” and is associated with consumerism, classism and promiscuity. In 2010, North Korea allegedly started a facebook page where it identified itself as gay. That is not actually the case.

Kim Jong-un with his father

Jong-il’s waning health has been rumored for some time and it’s reported he suffered a stroke in 2008, but in carefully constructed state media coverage of his activities since then, he has appeared in relative good health. The USA Today says that “the communist country’s “Dear Leader” — reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine — was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.”

In America generally everyone’s been warily scared shitless of this bizarre dude, who was declared a member of an “axis of evil” by our BFF George W. Bush, who also described Kim as a “tyrant.” Psychiatrists have determined that Jong-il possesses the “big six” group of personality disorders (sadistic, paranoid, antisocial, narcissistic, schizoid and schizotypal) also shared by Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein.

Jong-il died on a train, which is how he always traveled because he is afraid of flying.  Jong-il enjoyed films such as Rambo and Friday the 13th, was a big Elizabeth Taylor fan, and at one point kidnapped a South Korean film director to build a film industry in North Korea. He also enjoyed the NBA, musicals, and opera, and referred to himself as “an Internet expert.

The BBC reported last year that due to its isolation, North Koreans have “develop[ed] a way of living seldom seem elsewhere: People cut the roadside grass with scissors, a time-consuming act, and wash the city pavements with scrubbing brushes and cloths, items usually reserved for the home. The city is drab and colourless and there are few new buildings going up.” 

In conclusion, Jong-il was an asshole, and now he’s dead.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3201 articles for us.


  1. they should get the film geek brother in to rule. If we’re lucky, the north koreans will kidnap Michael Bay for us.

    • Ah Michael Explosions and Racism Bay! I once made a joke that his website was because that’s how large his ego is.. and the people I was talking to believed it.

  2. What a great year for freedom in foreign countries! Meanwhile ours has bills like SOPA, Protect IP, and that questionable National Defense Authorization Act. **sighs**

    • If you think North Korea’s going to be free after this… well, the death of Kim Il-sung didn’t do anyone a lot of good, either.

      • Well no, I don’t think so. I meant that it’s a vulnerable time in the dictatorship and if something bubbles up in the North Koreans to rebel, it would be a good time. But that’s not going to happen according to this video

        • I don’t know if it’s that vulnerable, really. There’s been no change to the infrastructure that kept him in power, it’s just that the torch is being passed to a new person.

          It isn’t like it’s one individual who is the linchpin holding together the system. There’s a whole infrastructure built around it, to keep the “right” people in power. As much as we like to view dictatorships as one person running the show – hell, it’s implied in the very name – it’s really about a bunch of people holding it up, and one person who just gets the final say or who gets to be the spokesperson. Hitler, for example, wouldn’t have been Hitler without also Goebbels and Himmler and others. (I figured someone was going to invoke Godwin’s Law at some point, may as well just get it over with for everyone.)

          Kim Il-sung’s death didn’t change anything and neither with Kim Jong-il’s, because the structure is still there. They knew about it ahead of time and were able to hand-pick a successor. It’s not like died as the result of a war or revolution or other situation where the whole house of cards has collapsed, as opposed to just the top card.

          • Bingo. The military is really calling the shots in North Korea – the Kim dynasty is just a family of convenient figureheads.

    • These people are fighting for basic human rights. And don’t yet actually have the rights they are fighting for. So, I think your comparison is way off base. I’m not an American, however, I don’t agree on those American internet proposals either. But I think there needs to be some perspective. You have freedoms and rights through your United States citizenship that can only be dreamed of by members of those countries at this point.

  3. This article just answered all my questions about Kim Jong-il’s death along with a lot of questions I never knew I had

    • I can easily see them making up a plot point where Avery must stay and marry Jong-un, who’s crazily smitten with her or something (Jong-un of course still played by Margaret Cho, just in a fat suit this time around).

      Either that or she escapes, smuggling herself out of the country in a Jong-il dummy casket. Returning to the states completely insane/jumpy/unable to grasp her old Manhattan lifestyle.

    • Legit the first thing I thought of when I heard the news. EVERYTHING SUNNY ALL THE TIME ALWAYS.

  4. Well, that didn’t happen a moment too soon, did it? Hopefully there will be some sort of awakening in North Korea to continue the promising trend of the Arab spring. However unlikely.

  5. I think your last phrase is unacceptable. You’re not an historian. You gave us absolutely zero background regarding the politics of this man or no indication of where he might be coming from. You only mentioned people cutting the grass with scissors. So either you’re basing your opinion out of other people (which is absolutely not enough, you should fundament it always) or you’re basing it out of your two examples (which is not enough, because you cannot interpret anything taken out of context). In any way, it is quite childish and severely not appropriate from a newspaper or blog or anything that last sentence. It is not enough funny, if funny was what you were going for.

    • All the evidence I’ve seen points to the fact that the dude was an asshole. Do you have any evidence that he wasn’t?

      • Again, you do not have the background nor the context. I would abstain from any comment. You should at least know the opinion of one North Korean person before you can pass on any judgment. Secondly, you could try to be more modest. You are not a politician, not an historian, not a specialist on politics at all. This is a website for news on the media. You are not qualified to pass on judgment on matters like this.

        • Autostraddle has always covered politics, including international politics. A quick glance at the “international news” tag shows coverage of countries as far-flung as Uganda, Ecuador, India, Nigeria, Australia, Russia, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom. There were open threads for Osama bin Laden’s death and the London riots. Why weren’t you demanding “credentials” in those posts or demanding that we interview real Ugandan gays to find out if they were just as bothered by the “kill the gays” bill or if this was just the skewed opinion of the decadent West?

          Also, does one really need to be intimately connected to the internal affairs of North Korea to declare Kim Jong-Il an asshole? Even if we had absolutely no reliable accounts of life inside the country (which is not the case), his foreign policy of erratic nuke threats would be enough.

          Also, since when does calling someone an “asshole” require a citation?

          • We are starting to enter a circular argument. My reply to that is again that you should not pass on judgments without knowing its historical or social context. Maybe this is a more challenging concept for you, being American and having a short history (not trying to offend). Point is no one can expect to make an attempt at an objective criticism while using internal logic. North Korea is not a democratic state like the US, if you’d like to comprehend it, you cannot see it through your lens of principles valid in the US but possibly not in Korea. You should try to analyse it within the Korean context. This is all I have to say on this matter.

          • I believe you are judging Autostraddle’s article “without historical or social context” of this website!

            Also for the record I accidently “thumbs-upped” this comment instead of hit reply. This does not represent my true feelings!

          • Uh ok, see, i consider that to be good input…i didn’t now that about Amnesty International and it does make you think, because if you want a more unbias opinion about human rights, then they’re a good start i guess. I still did not find the last phrase funny though. I really don’t think it’s ok to call asshole to anybody, especially if it’s not directly correlated to you so you don’t have personal feelings on it (meaning I would understand the same comment coming from an American if it was directed to Bush, for example). See, what I’m talking about is a big problem with the US and Europe as well (but mainly the US) and the main reason why that country gets so much hatred from so many people all over the world: it’s this false illusion that whatever principles are applicable in your country can be transferable to the realities of other countries (and therefore the golden rule of the “let’s spread democracy all over the world”.

            To the other person that called me a troll, I would like to say that I am entitled to my opinion (and actually, I did not express a direct opinion on the politics of Kim Jong, I remained neutral on that, what I did not enjoy was the tone of the writing in the last sentence). Anyway, I am entitled to an opinion, and I am entitled to express it freely, as long as I’m not offending anyone, I think. And that’s exactly what I did. Regardless of how popular or unpopular it might be. You might know something about the issue of minorities, since you are reading this website it is quite probable you belong to one yourself. I guess ‘a troll’ is not really something you’d like to be called, or? Please maintain the level of speech.

          • ” especially if it’s not directly correlated to you so you don’t have personal feelings on it ”

            Well, considering his many threats to bomb the U.S. among other countries, I’d say we’re more than entitled to “personal feelings” on Kim Jong-Il, in the same way that non-Americans in countries affected by Bush’s policies are entitled to “personal feelings” on Bush.

          • “Maybe this is a more challenging concept for you, being American and having a short history (not trying to offend).”

            Um, no, because, believe it or not, it is possible to be American and know about the history of countries other than America! I know, shocker! Also, your statement that America has a “short history” is problematic in and of itself, because that statement only applies if you’re completely dismissing Native Americans, who have been living in the present-day United States and making history since the Ice Age.

            If you’re really trying not to be offensive, you’re doing a shitty job of it.

            Anyway, I don’t think you understand what it means to “put things in historical or cultural context.” There’s a difference between recognizing that people raised in different times and places will have different opinions and acting like that makes those opinions acceptable. For example: I can watch the movie Gone With the Wind and recognize that it is a good movie despite the racism, and realize that that racism was going to be inevitable with a movie about the Civil War made in the 1930s. That doesn’t, however, mean the racism is okay. Just because it was common and socially-acceptable then doesn’t mean it was right. Those attitudes led to the oppression of African-Americans. Or to give another example: I have acquaintances who are anti-gay because they were raised in environments full of conservative fundamentalist Christians with little to no exposure to different opinions. I recognize that, but I’m not going to accept it. Whatever their motivations may be, it has the same concrete consequences of my rights being voted away.

            So yeah, Kim Jong Il may be typical of “the context” but he still committed gross violations of human rights. Torture doesn’t magically become less painful because your culture or political system accepts it. And, short of someone who is looking for reasons to harp on Americans*, I don’t think anyone would call me an “arrogant American” for saying that, yes, democracy is a better system than oppressive dictatorships – short of someone who is looking for reasons to mock Americans.

            *Which it seems like you have a pattern of doing on this site:

          • I am not dismissing the history that came before the US as a country, the US does it all the time. I am merely reflecting that.

            Secondly, all you said is very applicable if and only if you know the whole context. Particularly you taken history and you talked about the history of your culture, so it is easier to interpret it since a) it happened already, 2) it is your culture. I seriously don’t think we have enough knowledge on North Korea (also because goddammit they are so hermetic) to really understand all the grey areas there. I would again really really enjoy at least talking someone that comes from there.

            And nevertheless I still don’t think that it is acceptable to say “he was an asshole. now he’s dead”. It is severely biased, judgmental and reductive. And so it deserves it’s exact respect I guess. So I guess from now on if I want good reporting I will go to the New York Times, if I want biased, judgmental and reductive I will go to Autostraddle. This is my personal conclusion after reading this article.

          • Oh btw, what argument did you intend to fulfill by quoting my previous post on food? It was a joke on stereotypes. It didn’t even reflect my personal opinion, but a commonly used stereotype. A joke.

            If you’re going to pick up my posts that at least you could be statistical and pick every. Bad ones and good ones. Nevertheless none of them would help you determine if what I’m saying now is valid or not. The only thing you can conclude from them is that I have opinions. Bless opinions.

          • “Particularly you taken history and you talked about the history of your culture, so it is easier to interpret it since a) it happened already, 2) it is your culture.”

            I could have used non-US examples if you wanted, but I think you’re being a bit dismissive of how big of a difference time plays in changing people’s values – not just place.

          • although this article did not detail the details of his assholedom, as Evidux said below: “don’t talk about this evil little shit as if this isn’t common knowledge.”

            i feel confident about my assertion that he is an asshole.

          • Wow…this is either a North Korean government puppet, or you have issues. I’m not American. I’m not even from a Western country. And I still think Kim Jong-il was huge asshole.

          • Then maybe you should watch the documentary, “Kimjongilia.” It’s told by North Korean defectors.

        • He was a psychopath and a dictator, using the near free labour provided by his people to live in excessive luxury while they starve and are denied basic human rights such as freedom of speech and the right to political participation. Don’t talk about this evil little shit as if this isn’t common knowledge. Amnesty International’s 2011 report on North Korea is live on their website for anyone who wants to dwell further into the barbarism of this bastard.

    • Troll senses… tingling… unless of course you just haven’t used your fingers to type in a search. Then, y’know, you might want to get on that considering it’s no secret he was one bad dude and you’ll get a couple thousand results as conformation to Reese’s article.

      Search first, complain later.

      • “and you’ll get a couple thousand results as conformation to Reese’s article.”

        Unless you live in North Korea.

        • And what if people lived in North Korea and voiced their opinion?
          Kindly, do not disrespect North Korean people and/or users on this site, to each their own and we’re all debating politics here.

          I’m not bashing people all over the website because they voted for George Bush.. twice, and if Kim Jong Il is a country’s dictator, I believe Barrack Obama is the world’s dictator, but I don’t bash you for that.


          • last time i heard kim jong il wasn’t voted in, and north koreans didn’t have much of a voice never mind any internet to speak of, unless they were kim jong il

          • I would call the Kim Jong-il argument made by “Eve” a severe case of apples and oranges, but I feel it would be an insult to the majority of North Koreans, who don’t even have food, much less internet or voting.

          • Thank you for your illumination about fruits, but I am afraid this has nothing to do with the comparison you just made.

            And please stop patronizing North Koreans, they do have food and only they know what to do with their country. And kindly, do not compare a basic need to voting to internet or even increase both the latter importance. It is only in your values that the internet is important, and only in your society that voting is the best way. After all you are voting since you came of age and look where this is leading you and the rest of the world.

          • This is not directed at millbot, it’s just there’s not reply under Eve (we’ve eaten up all that space apparently).

            Eve, my dearest, dearest Eve (and I’m not being condescending or anything, I’m just in a really calm place right now). I’m not even going to touch on your issues with voting, or Americans, or all or your assumptions about millbot. It’s all kinda trolly at this point and that never goes anywhere.

            However if you know that they do have food in North Korea, please tell the North Koreans where it is.

            (ok maybe that last part was a little condescending).

          • However your deliberate misinterpretation of my comment makes me “patronizing” toward North Koreans, I’d still say that’s way, way, way less offensive than your and Luisa’s conception that we should just let the North Korean government continue to deprive their citizens of basic human rights, information and necessities, and to torturing dissidents, because “cultural relativism.”

          • I don’t see how pointing out that North Koreans can’t look up dissenting views about their government is the same as “bashing North Koreans.”

  6. In high school, I represented North Korea at a Model UN convention…. LGBT rights was one of our topics. I stood up in front of 300 of North America’s most elite students and demanded a homosexual genocide….. Oh the irony

    • Model UN ftw!

      I was never North Korea, but I did serve on a historical committee where I had to represent a member of Hitler’s war cabinet, so I know the feeling. I also got to represent Pol-Pot-era Cambodia as the crisis director for the Historical Security Council at my college’s conference for high schoolers.

      • Model UN nerds unite!

        I was so nerdy I even organised a couple. Running a model UN is fun because you can use the note-passing system to fake notes from delegates with declarations of war and / or romance. I once set the delegates from US and France up with some fake flirty notes and I hear they wound up going on a date as a result.

        • Oh hell yeah, I’ve never ran a conference all by myself but I served on the staff at a few conferences, and omg, being a staffer is even more fun than being a delegate, if that’s possible!

          Also, re: Model UN dating, I staffed a historical security council once where the US and USSR delegates ended up dating, all on their own!

          • It really is! And haha, that is awesome. I would have liked to have read the notes they wrote to each other during debate ;) World peace through international romance…

  7. Not sure what to say to this. Considering I’m in finals mode and (attempting) to finish my engineering exams it probably wouldn’t be coherent anyway… I just hope that something good for the Korean people can come from this.

  8. Snetimientos encontrados…..I feel bad for his family and stuff. But I can’t avoid feels happy about the north Korean.

    His death doesn’t mean that the country will change suddenly. But it will…

    His son will be in charge. And he has been in touch with the western culture, so maybe isn’t bad the death of his father…

    (also, how funny it is that the leftwing always talking about how wrong and evil are the monarchy, and those stuff. And now the power will go from father to son?

    Hilarious! (my english isn’t great, sorry)

  9. Here’s some interesting info about him-> Apparently, he was born in a log cabin inside a mountain, and there’s a talking iceberg involved somewhere too, it’s sort of reminds me of catholicism.

    And here’s something even weirder-> Did they forget what he’d done, or were they paid to do this…or what, it’s a bit mental! Also, this bit made me laugh-> “Jong-il long claimed to be the world’s greatest golfer. In 1994, Pyongyang media reported that he shot 38 under par on a regulation 18-hole golf course, including 5 holes in one” right, course you did!

  10. As a political science major I just want to point out one small thing–Osama bin Laden was not a dictator of any nation, he was a leader of a terrorist cell. Otherwise, I liked the article and loved that family picture. Happy bunch.

  11. it might be evil and morbid to say this but i’m glad this despotic asshole is dead. i just don’t understand how someone could be capable of persecuting and subjugating their own people. let’s hope his son is too weak to hold onto power and this dictatorship ends.

    • Wow. I guess it can’t be worse than when a friend giving a presentation on Kim Jong the second in grade school…. Yup, she thought ‘Il’ was II… The teacher didn’t even notice until she was halfway through the presentation…

      • I remember once playing a version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire in fifth grade (this was late ’90s when it was all the rage) and one of the kids in my class was asked who Harriet Tubman was. The answer he gave was “famous athlete.” I wanted to cry…

  12. Hey dudes. Kim was a nice guy. Just because he made prisoners of everyone in his country, starved millions of his people to death, sent millions more to concentration camps where most of them died from minor inconveniences (such as beatings, beheadings, freezing, starvation, shootings, hangings, torture, and other unmentionable nice ways to die) is no reason to give the guy a bad rap.

    And the other little things he did like shoot rockets over Japan, shell South Korea killing several people, tafficking heroin, printing and selling counterfiet money, selling weapons to terrorists, and so on….. Should these kinds of things be held against such a nice guy.

    He did give the families of his henchmen cell phones. Of course there was a small caveat that went along with it and that was they couldn’t actually use them under penalty of death. Also, no radios, tvs, or any other source of connecting to the outside world which if caught with anything that could allow one to do so would result in the usual death penalty.

    Anyone not showing a positive emotional outburst for the almighty wonderful most magnificent Kim would only be sent to one of the vacation concetration camps – usually for life which was very short. So for those lucky dudes, summary executions didn’t apply, just the longer prolonged excrutiating deaths.

    Other fun living experiences include the speaker on the wall of each persons house reminding them morning and night how great and wonderful Kim was and also to remind them of the correct behavior in everything to be done such as in everyday living.

    Of course the escapees from the lovely resort country of North Korea don’t have such nice things to say about the beloved Kim. But, what the hey. What do they know.

    Most of the people reading foolish colums like this probably would love to live there and suck up to Kim too if the swine were still alive.

    I personally believe the person or persons that assassinated him deserve to be on the Johnny Carson show. And were you really fooled by that wax dummy at his funeral. Get Real.

    • Anyone who thinks that western civilization (and its problems) bears even a fleeting resemblance to North Korea needs to read 1984, realize that Kim Il-sung used it as a blue print and sit the fuck down.

      I’m not having this, I really am not.

  13. Since I’m noticing that it is not the content of my opinion but my opinion per se that is being questioned by other posters, I would like to leave one thing clear to Riese and to the other “you”s as well:

    A) I do not get any kicks out of writing a negative comment. If I write a negative opinion I give reasoning for it and I am always happy to explain it further, in case I was not clear. I am responsible for my opinions.
    B) The internet is over populated with “information”, data. But actually, there is no filter for quality. Everyone can write anything about anything. Well, in this case it is important that if I see something that, for me, does not respect a (personally established) level of quality, of validity, then I feel like I should say something. More so because Autostraddle (as many other blogs and forums) seems to more or less work like a legion of “fans” sometimes. Have you ever wondered Riese, how every time you comment on an article, you are the person that gets the most “likes”? Isn’t that weird? Do you feel that to be objective? So I do feel sometimes that someone should point out when things are out of place and everyone is just agreeing out of fashion. Like the story of the emperor going around naked, if you will.
    C) It does not really benefit me to write and then reply to comments or whatever. The first reason I do it is that I feel, in bigger spheres as a citizen and a person and in the context of this website as an active reader, that I should also offer my voice to the group. Secondly, Riese it could actually be a useful comment to you. Because in the middle of all this fandom, maybe you can feel sometimes that no one is criticizing your writing. And thus you can’t grow. Instead by me offering my voice, then maybe at least next time you decide to write an article on something else you can think twice, and maybe write it better. Be incisive, and funny, and personal all you like, but also please don’t loose focus on the professionally of what you are writing. This is my opinion as a reader, which is the only competence I have to judge your writing, but again it’s still one individual opinion and it deserves its place, along with the opinions of every one else.

    • No, it is also the content. You are responding as if this was presented as some kind of unbiased political essay. It isn’t and doesn’t pretend to be in any disingenouous way.

      Your statement: ” You should at least know the opinion of one North Korean person before you can pass on any judgment. Secondly, you could try to be more modest. You are not a politician, not an historian, not a specialist on politics at all. This is a website for news on the media. You are not qualified to pass on judgment on matters like this.”

      You believe that words from a politician or ONE North Korean = qualification on matters such as this? Not to mention many newspapers and ‘serious’ magazines that have there own agenda based on ownership.

      Also, your comments regarding people on this site ‘liking’ Reise and that should make her wonder, isn’t it weird, etc., leads me to believe you are so profoudly out of touch with the history of this site that you should be a bit more modest next time you think you have the slightest understanding or context from which you write when you comment on the site.

  14. HOW DARE YOU!!!! Kim Jong-il was so much more than an asshole!!


    No respect…

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