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Kim Jong-il (officially transcribed Kim Jong Il; Korean : 김정일; Korean pronunciation: [kim.dzɔŋ.il]; 16 February 1941 or 1942 – 17 December 2011 ) was the second leader of North Korea . He ruled from the death of his father , Kim Il-sung, the first leader of North Korea in 1994 until his own death in 2011 . In the early 1980s , Kim had become the heir apparent for the leadership of the Democratic People 's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and assumed important posts in the party and army organs. Kim succeeded his father and DPRK founder Kim Il-sung, following the elder Kim's death in 1994. Kim was the General Secretary of the Workers ' Party of Korea (WPK), WPK Presidium, Chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC) of North Korea and the Supreme Commander of the Korean People 's Army (KPA), the fourth-largest standing army in the world . Kim assumed supreme leadership during a period of catastrophic economic crisis amidst the dissolution of the Soviet Union , on which it was heavily dependent for trade in food and other supplies, which brought a famine. While the famine had ended by the late 1990s , food scarcity continued to be a problem throughout his tenure due in part to the country 's mountainous geography unsuited for high-yielding agriculture as well as externally-imposed sanctions due to concerns about the country 's human rights situation. Kim strengthened the role of the military by his Songun (" military -first") policies, making the army the central organizer of civil society . Kim's rule also saw tentative economic reforms, including the opening of the Kaesong Industrial Park in 2003. In April 2009 , North Korea 's constitution was amended to refer to him and his successors as the " supreme leader of the DPRK".