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Were circumstances of Kim Jong Il's death fabricated?

Kns / AFP - Getty Images

This undated picture, released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on Dec.17, 2011, shows North Korean lreader Kim Jong Il (C), accompanied by his son Kim Jong Un (2nd-L), inspecting the Kwangbok Area Supermarket just before opening in Pyongyang. It is said to be the elder Kim's last public appearance.

The official report said that North Korea's "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il died on a train at 8:30 on Saturday morning after suffering a heart attack during a "high intensity field inspection." State media reported his death on Monday.

Now, North Korea experts in South Korea are calling into question that account, saying North Korea likely made it all up, according to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper website.

Among the details they say don't make sense:

  • Freezing weather: Kim was known for a nocturnal lifestyle and rarely got up before noon, and would have unlikely risen early in 20-degree temperatures for a field inspection.
  • Train didn't move: South Korea's intelligence director testified that Kim's special train - equipped with four hospital cars - did not move out of the station the entire weekend.
  • Witnesses: Kim always traveled with a large entourage, but the news of his death was kept secret for 50 hours.

Citing South Korean sources, the newspaper speculates Kim most likely died at home.

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"Death on the train is possibly the best story that the North Korean regime can use to promote Kim as a hardworking leader who worked for the people until the moment he died. North Koreans would feel there's a huge difference between an easy and peaceful death in his bed and death at work far from home," a South Korean source told the newspaper. 

Meanwhile, South Korea's main opposition party is calling for the dismissal of top intelligence, security and foreign affairs officials for failing to know about Kim's death before it was officially announced.

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The South Korean defense minister and other officials have acknowledged that they learned of Kim's death at the same time Pyongyang's state media told the world Monday.

The admission has caused anger among many South Koreans who worry that Kim's death might trigger instability on the Korean peninsula.

The Democratic Party said Wednesday that President Lee Myung-bak should fire officials responsible for the intelligence lapse.

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