Kim Jong Il became the de facto leader of North Korea upon the death of his father, Kim Il Sung, on 8 July 1994. The world watched as the succession mechanism put in place over the last 20 years operated with relative calm, making him the first leader to become the head of a Communist country through dynastic succession. Over the next four years, he slowly consolidated his power, replacing many of his father's appointees with younger officials. While the "Dear Leader," as he is called, did not have the charisma or energy of his father, he appeared to have the support of North Korean citizens. This support had been built up through many years of orchestrated propaganda and loyalty to his father.
After a three-year trial period, North Korea's ruling party cleared the way for Kim Jong Il to assume the post of general secretary of the ruling Korean Workers' Party on 8 October 1997. Analysts observed a notable increase in the praises heaped on Kim once the mourning period for his father ended in July 1997. On 5 September 1998, Kim's position as leader of his country was made official by the Supreme People's Assembly. Instead altogether in tribute to Kim Il Sung, leaving Kim Jong Il with the title of chairman of the National Defense Commission, a position that by default became the highest in the land. The move to elevate him came as an acute food crisis engulfed the country after three years of alternating floods and drought, making it certain that his leadership abilities would be put to the test over the coming months and years.