|Kim was hailed as "the sun of the 21st century" and "the most prominent statesman in the present world" at official birthday celebrations in Pyongyang on Monday, while people from Nepal to Peru were marking the day with films and parties, state media said.
"The great personality of Kim Jong Il as a political elder in the present world has been exalted by his unusual leadership ability," Yang Hyong-sop, vice-president of North Korea's parliament, told a gathering of Pyongyang elite on Sunday.
North Korean publications describe Kim Jong Il as a renaissance man who has flown fighter aircraft, written operas and shot 11 holes-in-one in his first try at golf.
Despite Kim's reputed brilliance, his years in power have coincided with precipitous economic decline and deadly food shortages. About a third of all North Koreans are dependent on outside food aid, which is at risk of drying up.
As his people go hungry, he continues to pursue nuclear weapons as a way of preserving his regime, which President George W. Bush once said is part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and pre-war Iraq.
Isolated and demonised by the much of the outside world, the reclusive leader will cast a large shadow over six-party talks next week in Beijing, where five states will try to persuade North Korea to defuse a crisis that is largely his handiwork.
Kim's envoys will sit down on February 25 with diplomats from Russia, China, South Korea, the United States and Japan to try to resolve the second atomic crisis in a decade on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim, who leads the planet's only communist dynasty, is one of few North Koreans with unfettered access to news from the outside world through satellite television and the Internet.
This is guy is such a joke.