Kim Jong Il death: Koreatown reacts with joy and worry

Los Angeles' Koreatown reacted with both glee and anxiety on hearing about the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

"I saw it as someone who should have passed long ago finally having passed," said a North Korean defector now living in L.A., who asked not to be named because of the nature of his escape from North Korea. "It was something that should have happened long ago."

Kim's death was announced Monday by a weeping anchorwoman on North Korean state television. The mercurial strongman, who styled himself as "Dear Leader" while ruling over an impoverished police state, was reported to have died from a heart attack Saturday while traveling by train. He also had chronic illnesses.

PHOTOS: Kim Jong Il | 1941-2011

In grocery stores, shopping plazas and all-night diners in L.A.'s Koreatown, the news of Kim's death was greeted with both unrestrained joy and a deep sense of concern.

Yoon-hui Kim, a defector who fled North Korea about 10 years ago by crossing the border into China, said refugees were all on edge waiting to see what would happen next.

Many still have family back in North Korea and are deeply concerned about what fate their relatives may face in the immediate future, she said. 

-- Victoria Kim, Garrett Therolf and Matt Stevens

Photo: Television screens reporting the death of Kim Jong Il are seen at an electronics store in Seoul. Credit: Chiho Jeong / Bloomberg

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