The dictator, who used fear and isolation to maintain power in North Korea and the threat of nuclear weapons to menace his neighbors and the US, died from fatigue during a train ride on Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Kim took power in July 1994 after the death of his father Kim Il Sung who founded North Korea in 1948.
The country, a declining communist industrial power when he took control, fell into abject poverty under his rule.
Kim, however, continued to command attention and relevance in the world by building nuclear weapons and selling other arms.
Kim suffered a stroke-like illness in August 2008 and was incapacitated for two months, forcing him to begin to groom a successor.
In 2009, reports emerged that Kim had chosen the youngest of his three sons, Kim Jong Eun, to carry on the family's regime.
Those reports were confirmed in September 2010, when Kim appointed his 28 years old son, a four-star general in the North Korean military and to high-level posts in the ruling political party.