Kim's death was announced Monday by state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully documented by state media.
The leader, reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.
No doubt there the world will be watching closely to determine the geopolitical fallout in the coming days. Until then, since the cosmic irony of Kim Jong-Il's death coming on the heels of Christopher Hitchens's and Vaclav Havel's passing is just too much to bear, here's a link to Hitch's great 2001 piece from Vanity Fair where he visited the repressive regime and branded it a "necrocracy."