Crowds pack snowy route for Kim Jong-il's funeral

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

North Korea's next leader escorted his father's hearse in an elaborate state funeral on a bitter, snowy day today, bowing and saluting in front of tens of thousands of citizens who wailed and stamped their feet in grief for Kim Jong Il.

Son and successor Kim Jong Un was head mourner on the grey day in Pyongyang, walking with one hand on the black hearse that carried his father's coffin on its roof, his other hand raised in salute, his head bowed against the wind. 

At the end of the 2.5-hour procession, rifles fired 21 times as Kim Jong Un stood flanked by the top party and military officials who are expected to be his inner circle of advisers. Kim then saluted again as goose-stepping soldiers carrying flags and rifles marched by. 

Although analysts say Kim Jong Un is on the path toward cementing his power and all moves in North Korea so far — from titles giving him power over the ruling party and military and his leading position in the funeral procession — point in that direction, his age and inexperience leave questions about Kim's long-term prospects. Whereas his father was groomed for power for 20 years before taking over, the younger Kim has had only about two years. 

He also faces the huge challenges of running a country that struggles to feed its people even as it pursues a nuclear weapons programme that has earned it international sanctions and condemnation. 

Kim Jong Il — who led with absolute power after his father Kim Il Sung's death in 1994, through a famine that killed hundreds of thousands and the pursuit of nuclear and missile programs — died of a heart attack on 17 December at the age  of 69. 

Mourners in parkas lined the streets of Pyongyang, waving, stamping and crying as the convoy bearing his coffin passed. Some struggled to get past security personnel holding back the crowd. 

"How can the sky not cry?" a weeping soldier standing in the snow said to state TV. "The people ... are all crying tears of blood." 

The dramatic scenes of grief showed how effectively North Korea built a personality cult around Kim Jong Il despite chronic food shortages and decades of economic hardship. 

A large challenge for North Korea's propaganda apparatus will be "to counter the public's perception that the new leader is a spoiled child of privilege," said Brian Myers, an expert on North Korean propaganda at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea. 

"Having Kim Jong Un trudge mournfully next to the hearse in terrible weather was a very clever move," Myers said. 

Even as North Koreans mourned the loss of the second leader the nation has known, the transition of power to Kim Jong Un was well under way. The young man, who is in his late 20s, is already being hailed by state media as the "supreme leader" of the party, state and army. 

Kim wore a long, dark overcoat as he strode alongside his father's hearse accompanied by top party officials behind him and key military leaders on the other side of the limousine — a lineup that was a good look at who will be the core leadership in North Korea. 

North Korea now turns to tomorrow's memorial ceremony. Although there will be tributes to Kim Jong Il, the country will be turning toward Kim Jong Un, analysts said. 

"The message will be clear: Kim Jong Un now leads the country and there is no alternative," said Kim Yeon-su, a North Korea expert at the state-run Korea National Defence University in South Korea. 

There will also be more attention paid to the inner circle forming around Kim Jong Un. 

Today, he was accompanied by Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law and a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, who is expected to be crucial in helping Kim Jong Un take power. 

Also escorting the limousine were military chief Ri Yong Ho and People's Armed Forces Minster Kim Yong Chun. Their presence indicates they will be important players as the younger Kim consolidates his leadership. Top Workers' Party officials Choe Thae Bok and Kim Ki Nam and senior military officer Kim Jong Gak also took prominent positions. 

The early part of today's funeral ceremony was shrouded in secrecy, as in 1994, when Kim Il Sung died. Back then, Kim Jong Il and top officials held a private, hour-long ceremony inside the Kumsusan palace before the procession through the city, according to his official biography. 

Pyongyang's foreign diplomats were invited to attend the procession, though few other outsiders appeared to be allowed into the country for the funeral. One foreign diplomat in Pyongyang, who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of her work, said funereal music played and people wept as the convoy left Kumsusan followed by a large number of vehicles and army jeeps. 

After showing taped footage of mourners and documentaries of Kim Jong Il, state TV began airing the procession, showing cars moving slowly through the snowy city, led by a limousine carrying a huge portrait of a smiling Kim Jong Il. 

Today's procession had a stronger military presence than 1994. 

Kim Jong Il, who ushered in a "military first" era when he took power, celebrated major occasions with lavish, meticulously choreographed parades designed to show off the nation's military might, such as the October 2010 display when he introduced his son to the world. 

Kim Jong Un was made a four-star general and appointed a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party last year. 

After the funeral, the young Kim is expected to solidify his power by formally assuming command of the 1.2 million-strong military, and becoming general secretary of the Workers' Party and chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, said Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor at Korea University in South Korea. 

Kim Jong Il's two other sons, Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Chol, were not spotted at the procession. 

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Day In a Page

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference