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Death of Kim Jong

It was just after midday on a cold December Monday in South Korea's capital when news of Kim Jong Il's death filtered through.

Though the reclusive North Korean leader had been plagued with health problems in recent years, the announcement was greeted with general astonishment in Seoul, according to a journalist from the country's largest newspaper.

"The initial reaction was shock, quickly followed by speculation about what was going to happen next," said Woosuk Ken Choi, assistant editor with The Chosun Daily.

For its part, the South Korean military responded by raising its alert level, while the country's media went into overdrive trying to predict how this oblique and erratic state would respond.

But Choi said most ordinary Koreans were remaining calm.

Another view, according to Choi, is "the Great Successor" will not last long.

"He's simply too young," he said. Kim Jong Un is believed to be in his late 20s.

"There is this notion in Korean society -- north and south -- that if you take the throne too young you won't last long. No matter how good he is, they think his uncles and more experienced family members will rule from behind him and that he could ultimately be sacrificed."

As pictures of ordinary North Koreans mourning the loss of their Dear Leader continued to filter onto television screens across South Korea Tuesday, Choi felt most people would have been struck by how staged they seemed.

"The pictures don't reflect the reality in North Korea," he argued.

"When Kim Il Sung died there were a number of people who really went out and cried because they really did respect him.

"Kim Jong Il's case is different because about two or three million people died of starvation after he came to power. The level of mourning will be about a tenth of what it was in 1994. This is the view of many defectors I have spoken to."

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