Kim Jong-il 'Died in Fit of Rage Over Construction Project'

Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died in a fit of rage on Dec. 17, 2011 after being briefed about a serious leak at a hydro-electric power plant, a source claims. The plant in Huichon, Jagang Province was built to supply about half of the power needs of the capital Pyongyang.

"After being briefed about the leak, Kim Jong-il lambasted officials and ordered them to repair it," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous. "He rushed to make an on-site inspection of the facility unable to contain his anger and died suddenly."

North Korea announced on Dec. 19 last year that Kim died of a heart attack caused by stress and overwork while on a train on his way to a field inspection.

Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visits a hydro-electric dam in Huichon, Jagang Province, in this undated photo from the [North] Korean Central News Agency. /KCNA-Yonhap Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visits a hydro-electric dam in Huichon, Jagang Province, in this undated photo from the [North] Korean Central News Agency. /KCNA-Yonhap

The Huichon power plant was one of the poster projects of the reclusive state's hopes to become a "powerful and prosperous nation." Construction began in March 2009, with Pyongyang boasting that it would resolve the chronic power shortage of the capital. Kim visited the site twice in 2009, four times in 2010 and twice in 2011. His son, incumbent leader Kim Jong-un, has already been four times.

Due to their incessant pressure, construction was completed on April 5 this year, just three years after groundbreaking and around seven years ahead of schedule. But the rush led to faulty construction, and cracks appeared on parts of the dam, which is 100 m high and 555 m long and capable of storing 850 million cubic meters of water.

"It wasn't just a crack. The safety of the entire dam was in question," the source said.

Stress about the trouble at Huichon was apparently the last straw after Kim learned that steel and textile manufacturing plants, also touted as key projects, had serious defects as well.

Marks from water leaks are clearly visible in the Huichon hydro-electric dam in July 2011. Marks from water leaks are clearly visible in the Huichon hydro-electric dam in July 2011.

A report on Dec. 22 in the official Rodong Sinmun daily, four days after Kim's sudden death, supports the story. "Once again our general quietly boarded a train headed to the northern part of the nation," it said. The northern part includes Hamgyong, Ryanggang and Jagang provinces.

Kim Jong-il apparently ordered those responsible to be severely punished.

Kim Jong-un did not attend a ceremony on April 5 marking the completion of the Huichon power plant, apparently to show he was still aggrieved over the project which led to his father's death.

But other questions about Kim senior's death remain. For instance, it took North Korea over 51 hours to announce Kim's death, twice as long than it took to announce his father and nation founder Kim Il-sung's in 1994. This raises suspicions that the North was trying to hide something.

At the time, intelligence officials said satellite images showed Kim's personal train never left Pyongyang on Dec. 17, raising suspicions that the official story that he died aboard the train was a lie.

Also, Kim Jong-il was famous for his nocturnal lifestyle and normally got up around noon, so at the time pundits speculated that it was unlikely he was on a train in the freezing morning, which is bad for patients with a weak heart.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 26, 2012 09:38 KST