(CNN) -- North Korea's longtime leader Kim Jong Il, the embodiment of the reclusive state where his cult of personality is deeply entrenched, has died, state TV reported. He was believed to be 69.
Regarded as one of the world's most-repressive leaders, Kim Jong Il always cut a slightly bizarre figure. His diminutive stature and characteristically bouffant hair have been parodied by some in the West.
"He's a mysterious person -- I think by design," said Han S. Park, director of the Center for the Study of Global Issues at the University of Georgia and a frequent visitor to North Korea. "Mystery is a source of leverage and power. It's maintaining uncertainty."
But for the citizens of his Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kim was the embodiment of the reclusive state, and well regarded.
His father, Kim Il Sung, founded North Korea with Soviet backing after World War II.
Kim Jong Il was just a little boy when the Korean War broke out in 1950 when the Communist North invaded the American-backed South. After the fighting ended, Kim became steeped in his father's philosophy of "juche" or self-reliance -- the basis of North Korea's reclusive nature. North and South Korea never formally signed a peace treaty and remain technically at war -- separated by a tense demilitarized zone.
North Korea gives Kim's official birthplace as sacred Mount Paektu. The peak, on the northern border with Chinese Manchuria, is the highest on the peninsula and the site where Korean legend says the nation came into existence 5,000 years ago. (Source: CNN)