Two hours after war failed to start, and as the international media began to exhaust their supply of North Korean analysts, hopes were raised as smoke was spotted rising from the ground, but it transpired to be a Bongo truck starting up.
After the attack on Yeonpyeong Island last year, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was taking no chances, urging citizens to remain calm and continue with their ordinary lives, causing panic among the previously calm population. Shares of Nong Shim - South Korea's largest manufacturer of instant noodles - rose 12% as shoppers rushed out to buy the emergency food even though in the event of war there would be no way of cooking them, and government officials were placed on emergency status with all visits to sports massage parlors canceled. But Hankyoreh journalists in Seoul remained at their desks, indicating that no attack on the capital from the North was imminent.
Despite years of trying to prepare for this moment, the government appears to have been caught completely off-guard by the announcement of King Jong-il's death, even though it actually occurred two days earlier, with the news only being learned from watching North Korean TV, which seems to confirm what many have suspected for some time – that South Korea's National Intelligence Service has little intelligence.
Despite ruling North Korea since 1994, equally little was known about the reclusive "Dear Leader", so-called because of how much he'd cost the citizens of his country. He was known to like Western movies and became a legend on the golf-course after shooting 11 holes-in-one during a single round with a female military unit, surpassing Tiger Woods' achievements and making him the world's greatest golfer.
In recent years the Russian-born king, whose original name was Yuri Irsenovich Kim, sought to renew Russia's battle against its old enemy Japan when the Japanese-born Tsukiyama Akihiro became South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak. But with only limited backing from their homelands, the Russian and Japanese-born leaders never succeeded in restarting the conflict which began in 1904.
King Jong-il was hoping to land a definitive psychological blow against the South, promising his adopted country would become "a strong and prosperous nation" by 2012. But his death - only ten days before this was scheduled to happen and apparently with no instructions left behind as to how he was going to do it - has thrown the plan into question.
Despite his gyopo heritage, Yuri Irsenovich Kim was committed to the doctrine of self-reliance or 'juche' as it was known, and in his last years was said to be deeply disappointed that the ideology he had helped to build remained misunderstood by both the West and South Koreans. Many academics argue that North Korea - far from being communist or a totalitarian dictatorship - is merely Koreanism in its purest form, undiluted by foreign influences. King Jong-il had hoped that eventually South Koreans at least would come to understand this, but he died without realizing his dream.
The North Korean crown now passes to his son, King Jong-un.
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