News North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks past his uncle Jang Song Thaek - Jang Song Thaek is reported to have been executed for 'attempting to overthrow the state'

Claims that secretive communist regime has carried out a further brutal purge of those the young leader sees as a threat to his authority

Supreme Leader: Kim inspects his troops in Pyongyang

Kim Jong-Il: Leader of North Korea who deepened the cult of personality in his country following the death of his father

It is one measure of the cult of secrecy surrounding North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il that his demise was rumoured long before he actually died yesterday. One professor at Tokyo's prestigious Waseda University argued in a best-selling book that the "Dear Leader" had succumbed to diabetes in 2003 and had been replaced by several doubles. "Common sense cannot take the measure of North Korea's uniqueness," wrote Toshimitsu Shigemura in The True Character of Kim Jong-il.

The former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who died this weekend, and his successor Kim Jong-un, front right, pictured earlier this year

A dictator who brutalised his people, destabilised the world, and then left it all to his son

The man who presided over the state too crazy to fail is dead. Kim Jong-il, the pint-sized tyrant who never outgrew his khaki jumpsuits, is said to have died from a heart attack while on an inspection tour on board a train, aged 69 (or, more likely, 70).

Kim Jong Il: A Cold War-era leader in modern times 

Even as the world changed around him, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il remained firmly in control, ruling absolutely at home and keeping the rest of the world on edge through a nuclear weapons programme.

Analysis: Kim Jong Il's death leaves nuclear talks uncertain 

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il could put a brake on talks ultimately aimed at getting the secretive communist state to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

Alberto Zaccheroni pictured in Pyongyang after the defeat to North Korea

Wasabi taken by North Korean customs officers may have contributed to Japan defeat

Over-zealous North Korean customs officers may have contributed to Japan's first defeat under Italian Alberto Zaccheroni earlier this week after confiscating his favourite tube of wasabi.

There were wild celebrations inside the Kim Il-sung stadium, pictured here in 2007

North Korea beat Japan in tempestuous World Cup qualifier

North Korea beat Japan 1-0 in a tempestuous World Cup qualifier today, the result largely academic with the visiting Blue Samurai already through to the final qualifying round for 2014.

Pyonyang seizes Seoul's assets in jointly run resort after shooting

Pyongyang has upped the ante in its tense relations with South Korea by seizing the assets of a jointly run resort that was once a symbol of warming ties.

North Korean leader arrives in Russia to meet Medvedev

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il arrived in Russia's Far East today and will meet with President Dmitry Medvedev during a visit expected to last a week, the Kremlin said. It is Kim's first trip to the country in nine years and a further sign of Pyongyang's increasing efforts to reach out for economic assistance and diplomatic support.

Missing stamp dealer praises 'democratic' North Korea

The mystery over a Dutch stamp dealer who went missing while travelling in North Korea deepened this week after he appeared in a state-run newspaper praising the country's democratic traditions.

Koreas trade artillery fire near disputed border island

The two Koreas have faced off again near their disputed maritime border, the first exchange of fire since last November when the lethal shelling of a South Korean island briefly brought the Cold War enemies to the brink of war.

Lost world: Scenes from North Korea's closed society

A remarkable set of photographs by David Guttenfelder sheds rare light on one of the planet's most isolated and secretive nations

Senior North Korean diplomat to visit US

A high-ranking North Korean diplomat plans to visit New York later this week for talks with United States officials, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported today.

Nuclear talks can resume, say North and South Korea

Nuclear envoys from North and South Korea emerged smiling from a face-to-face meeting yesterday, saying they were ready to work together to resume disarmament talks.

Kim Hye-sook: 'I saw prisoners turned to honeycomb by the bullets'

For three decades the diminutive 50-year-old endured life in a North Korean gulag. She gives Jerome Taylor a rare insight into a world of beatings, starvation and brutal executions

North Korea threatens 'sacred war' against South

North Korea threatened today to launch a "sacred war" against South Korea even as a delegation from Seoul travelled across the countries' heavily fortified border for a meeting on a stalled joint tourism project.

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