Embalmed body of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il put on display

Public paid homage and basked in the success of last week's launch of a long-range rocket

The embalmed body of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, still in his trademark khaki jump-suit, has been put on display on the anniversary of his death.

Kim lies in state a few floors below his father, national founder Kim Il Sung, in the Kumsusan mausoleum, the cavernous former presidential palace in Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il was presented lying beneath a red blanket, a spotlight shining on his face in a room suffused in red.

Wails echoed through the hall as a group of North Korean women sobbed into the sashes of their traditional dresses as they bowed before his body. The hall bearing the glass coffin was opened to select visitors for the first time since his death.

North Korea also unveiled Kim's yacht and his armoured train carriage, where he is said to have died. Among the personal belongings featured in the mausoleum are the parka, sunglasses and pointy platform shoes he famously wore in the last decades of his life. A laptop computer lay open on his desk.

North Koreans paid homage to Kim and basked in the success of last week's launch of a long-range rocket that sent a satellite named after him to space.

The launch, condemned in many other capitals as a violation of bans against developing its missile technology, was portrayed not only as a gift to Kim Jong-il but also as proof that his young son, Kim Jong-Un, has the strength and vision to lead the country.

The elder Kim died last December 17 from a heart attack while travelling on his train. His death was famously followed by scenes of North Koreans dramatically wailing in the streets of Pyongyang, and of the 20-something son leading ranks of uniformed and grey-haired officials through funeral and mourning rites.

The mood in the capital was decidedly more upbeat a year later, with some of the euphoria carrying over from last Wednesday's launch. The satellite bears one of Kim Jong-il's nicknames, Kwangmyongsong, or "Lode Star," a nickname given to him at birth according to the official lore.

North Koreans across the country stopped in their tracks at midday to bow their heads and honour the former ruler as the national flag fluttered at half-staff along streets and from buildings.

Pyongyang construction workers took off their yellow hard hats and bowed at the waist as sirens wailed across the city for three minutes. Earlier, Kim Jong-Un attended a solemn ceremony to reopen the sprawling granite mausoleum where his father and his grandfather lie in state in separate halls.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered in the frigid plaza outside, newly transformed into a public park with lawns and pergolas.

Speaking outside the mausoleum, renamed the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the military's top political officer, Choe Ryong Hae, said North Korea should be proud of the satellite, calling it "a political event with great significance in the history of Korea and humanity."

Much of the rest of the world, however, was swift in condemning the launch, which was seen by the United States and other nations as a thinly disguised cover for testing missile technology that could someday be used for a nuclear warhead.

The test, which potentially violates a United Nations ban on North Korean missile activity, underlined Kim Jong-Un's determination to continue carrying out his father's hardline policies even if they draw international condemnation.

AP

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