Kim Jong Il was the eldest son of Kim Il Sung and his first wife, Kim Jong Soko.

The North Korean government claims that Kim Jong Il was born on Mount Paektu, a fabled peak on its border with China, and that his birth was announced by birds, a double rainbow and the birth of a new star.

In reality, Kim Jong Il was born on February 16, 1942 in Khabarovsk, Soviet Union, 30 miles from the Chinese border and near North Korea while his father was in the Red Army, without birds, rainbows or a new star. His family moved to Pyongyang in 1945 when Second World War and the Japanese occupation of Korea ended.

When Kim Jong Il was 7 years old, his mother died during childbirth. The following year, Kim Il Sung sent him to China just before invading South Korea. The boy returned to Pyongyang as an 11 year old when the war ended in 1953.

Kim Jong Il graduated from university in 1964 and began to be groomed for political succession. Four years later, he was made a member of North Korea's Politburo, and in 1974, Kim Il Sung officially designated his 32-year old son as his successor.

Fifteen years later in 1991, the 47 year old was given control of the North Korean army, effectively making him the country's leader. When his father died three years later in 1994, Kim Jong Il made him the country's 'Eternal President' on whose behalf he would rule.

Kim Jong Il had one wife, Kim Young Suk, at least three mistresses, and at least four children by his wife and mistresses. His oldest son is Kim Jong Nam, born in 1971 to his first mistress. Kim Jong Un, the heir, is his youngest son, born to Koh Young He, a mistress who died in 2004.

Kim Jong Il owned 17 luxury palaces, 20,000 movies, 10,000 bottles of fine wine, and was the single largest customer of Hennessey Cognac in the world while the vast majority of his people starved in abject poverty. The World Food Programme still annually needs to feed 6 to 8 million of North Korea's 25 million people.

Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack on December 17, 2011.