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Kim Jong Il's Life Expectancy

On December 19, 2011, North Korean State Television announced that the country's leader Kim Jong-il had died on December 17 at 8:30AM local time, while on a train trip. Initial reports claimed he had died as a result of 'a great mental and physical strain', although KCNA later reported a massive heart attack to be the cause of death.

Kim Jong Il was born on 16 February 1941, and if he had lived to the age of 82 like his father Kim Il Sung [who was born in 1912 and died in 1994], he might have been expected to live until around the year 2023. In 2000 Kim Jong-il claimed to have quit smoking and cut down on drinking, according to accounts of his secretive visit to Beijing. "In the past, I used to smoke and drink a lot. Now I've quit smoking and I only drink a little wine," Kim was quoted as telling President Jiang Zemin. Visitors typically report that he appears to be in good health, although overweight.

In the early 1990s there were widespread rumors that Kim Jong-Il was ill with diabetes or kidney problems. One account says that he was suffering from a liver disorder from years of heavy drinking. He was also rumored to suffer from epilepsy, a bad heart, and brain damage (from a car accident or fall from horseback).

Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by a person's body either not producing or not able to use the hormone called insulin. The body needs insulin to be able to use glucose, a common sugar, as an energy source. The disease gradually clogs blood vessels and damages tissues. Complications include strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations due to the loss of circulation. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes in the United States, accounting for over half of all deaths. Diabetics are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than non-diabetics.

Mortality statistics underestimate the impact of diabetes, since most people with diabetes die from these complications rather than the disease itself. Diabetes is frequently cited as a secondary cause of death. Risk factors for diabetes include family history, obesity and race. Development of Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NDDM), also called Type II or Adult-Onset, usually occurs after age 40.

Although persons with diabetes possess more and higher levels of risk factors for mortality, this increased level of risk factors cannot fully explain the excess risk of mortality in persons with diabetes compared with persons without diabetes. After adjusting for age, people with NIDDM have about twice the death rate as people without diabetes. The reduction in life expectancy averages 5-10 years in middle-aged persons with NIDDM, and decreases with increasing age at diagnosis. Excess mortality varies by current age, and for diabetic persons who have survived to age 60 years, life expectancy is reduced by 3-5 years. []

If Kim Jong Il was in fact diabetic, and if he might otherwise have expected to live to the age of 82 like his father Kim Il Sung, he might have been expected to survive not to the year 2023, but to somewhere in the 2018 to 2020 time frame. Thus Kim Jong Il might calculate that as of 2005 he had between 13 and 18 years to confirm the succession, a process that took him 22 years.

Kim Jong Il had three sons, born between 1971 and 1985. If Kim Jong Il survived to the year 2023 those sons would be between the ages of 38 and 52, but if Kim Jong Il only survived to the year 2018, his sons would range in age from 33 and 49. Kim Jong Il was 53 years old at the time Kim Il Sung died. When Kim Jong-il died on 17 December 2011, his sons ranged in age from 26 and 42. North Korea proclaimed the beginning of the Kim Jong Un era on Thursday 22 December 2011, the sucession going to Kim Jong-il's youngest son, born in the 1983 to 1985 timeframe, though accounts are in conflict.

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Page last modified: 13-02-2018 10:18:56 ZULU