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Red skies and stormy seas heralded Kim Jong Il's death, state media says

Just before Kim Jong Il died, the skies glowed red above sacred Mount Paektu and the impenetrable sheet of ice at the heart of the mystical volcano cracked with a deafening roar.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Just before North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died, the skies glowed red above sacred Mount Paektu and the impenetrable sheet of ice at the heart of the mystical volcano cracked with a deafening roar.

At least, that's the official account of the supernatural circumstances preceding Kim's death on Saturday at age 69, as relayed by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

State media reported on Thursday that he "blocked the howling wind of history" in life and died at a time of abnormally cold weather and stormy seas.

Kim, who ruled isolated and impoverished North Korea from 1994 until his death on Saturday, was born on a sacred mountain, the moment foretold by a swallow and heralded by a double rainbow, according to the official narrative. Soviet records, however, reportedly indicate Kim Jong Il was born in Siberia.

In life, he was extolled by North Korea's fawning media with feats like a miraculous ability to control the weather and several holes-in-one on the golf course.

Since the weekend, KCNA has published dozens of English-language stories online with headlines such as "Kim Jong Il's Life Bright as Snow," "Korean People Ardently Yearn for Kim Jong Il" and "Korean People Make Uninterrupted Efforts to Build Thriving Nation."

Of his death, KCNA said: "In the morning of December 17 when he was on the train to make a journey of field guidance for the people the temperature was 4-7 degrees centigrade lower than the average, scoring the lowest this winter."

The day earlier, it said: "In East and West Seas, the wind blew 10-15 meters per second, causing the waves to rise up to 2-3 meters."

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The news agency is one of the chief propaganda organs tasked with building up the quasi-religious mystique around the Kims, North Korea's only rulers since its founding in 1948.

'Common attire'
Kim — depicted by official media as a humble servant of the people — died on the train on his way to dispense the advice that he regularly gave to factories, farms and the military, Pyongyang said when it released news of his death on Monday.

"Those weather data make one more keenly feel the painful labors of Kim Jong Ilwho continued in common attire his journey of field guidance with patriotic devotion despite the biting cold weather," KCNA said.

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KCNA said that Kim Jong Il, who foreign media and intelligence reports have linked with an opulent lifestyle, "worked hard day and night, having uncomfortable sleep and taking rice-balls" while serving his nation.

"Seeing his dedication, in tears, the people would ask him to stop making any more journeys along snow-covered roads in cold weather and sitting up all night," it said.

More than 100 poems had been written in Kim's honor in the past two days, KCNA said, with titles like "Rise Up, People of Great General," "Field Car Has Not Stopped" and "Soldiers Do Not Forget General."

The news agency said after the bad days surrounding Kim's death, a "spring of prosperity under socialism will surely come to the country thanks to the patriotic devotion of Kim Jong Il who blocked the howling wind of history till the last moments of his life."

The mythmaking for Kim Jong Un has begun as well, with an editorial in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper calling him "born of heaven." However, details of his birth, and the accompanying legend, have not yet been revealed.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press he is 27 years old, though many observers suspect he will skip a few years and celebrate his 30th birthday in January 2012.

That would make for a mystic convergence of numbers: Kim Jong Il would have turned 70 and Kim Jong Un would turn 30 in the year that Kim Il Sung would have turned 100.