North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-il died after flying into a fit of rage when he was told that a major dam project had sprung a leak, it emerged on Sunday.
Kim Jong-il collapsed during a briefing about a flagship hydro-electric power plant but managed to order “severe punishments” for those responsible before he died.
Secretive North Korea had reported his death on December 19 2011 – two days late – saying the leader suffered a heart attack while travelling on his personal train to a field inspection.
North Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported: “After being briefed about the leak, Kim Jong-il lambasted officials and ordered them to repair it.
“He rushed to make an on-site inspection of the facility unable to contain his anger and died suddenly.”
The plant in Huichon, Jagang Province, was built to solve the chronic power shortage in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang, meeting around half of the city’s energy needs.
Kim Jong-il was said to have visited the dam at least eight times since construction began in 2009.
State media claimed the “heroic task” of building the plant was finished in three years – seven years ahead of schedule.
The dam is reported to be more than 300ft high and 1,800ft wide and capable of storing 850 million cubic metres of water.
An anonymous source said the problem was more than “just a crack”, and added: “The safety of the entire dam was in question.”
The news was the “final straw” for Kim Jong-il, who had also been told about serious defects in other key steel and textile projects.
The dictator, who was believed to have been 70 and had ruled the country for 17 years, had been treated by French specialists for a stroke caused by alcohol and stress.
The country’s new leader, Kim Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, did not attend a ceremony in April marking the completion of the power plant to show he was still angry that it had led to his father’s death.
But Kim Jong-un has visited the site at least four times since taking over the country and is pushing ahead with construction projects of his own.
Meanwhile, power cuts continue in the capital, where temperatures fall below freezing in the winter.
The hall where the late leader’s embalmed remains lie in state is one of the few properties which are granted round the clock electricity – while many impoverished people go hungry and cold.
North Korea also marked the anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death earlier this month, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets days after the country tested a long-range rocket.
The satellite it was carrying reached orbit before falling from the sky but has been hailed a success by the regime.