North Korea begins memorial for Kim Jong Il, son declared 'supreme leader'

The events are being watched closely for signs to who will take power in the next era of leadership in the country founded by Kim Il Sung in 1948 and led since then by the Kim family.

hidden December 29, 2011 09:13:51 IST
North Korea begins memorial for Kim Jong Il, son declared 'supreme leader'

Pyongyang, North Korea: Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans packed the main plaza in Pyongyang as the nation's next leader looked on from a balcony at a solemn memorial for late leader Kim Jong Il on Thursday.

Kim Jong Un stood watching from a balcony at the Grand People's Study House overlooking Kim Il Sung Square, flanked by the top party and military officials.

It was a cold, gray day as the memorial began with a silent tribute for the man who led his 24 million people with absolute rule for 17 years after taking power following the 1994 death of his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.

A sea of soldiers filled the square, often the site of the massive military parades that Kim Jong Il loved, some of them seen stamping and trying to keep warm before the ceremony began.

North Korea begins memorial for Kim Jong Il son declared supreme leader

A sea of soldiers filled the square, often the site of the massive military parades that Kim Jong Il loved. AP

The entire country is engulfed in sadness, a solemn Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and the ceremonial head of state, told the crowd. State television showed a smiling photograph of Kim Jong Il below him.

The memorial was taking place on the second day of funeral ceremonies for Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack 17 December at age 69, according to state media.

The events are being watched closely for signs to who will take power in the next era of leadership in the country founded by Kim Il Sung in 1948 and led since then by the Kim family.

Kim Jong Il's son and successor was declared "supreme leader" of North Korea's ruling party, military and the people during a memorial on Thursday for his father in the first public endorsement of his leadership by the government.

Kim Jong Un, head bowed and somber in a dark overcast, stood watching from a balcony at the Grand People's Study House overlooking Kim Il Sung Square, flanked by the top party and military officials and Kim Jong Il's younger sister.

Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s, serves as a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party, but has been bestowed with a series of new titles in state media since his father's death: Great Successor, Supreme Leader and Sagacious Leader.

"Respected Comrade Kim Jong Un is our party and military's supreme leader who inherits great comrade Kim Jong Il's ideology, character and revolutionary" cause, Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and the ceremonial head of state, told the crowd Thursday. "The fact that he completely resolved the succession matter is great comrade Kim Jong Il's most noble achievement."

Kim Jong Un's leadership is not expected to become formal until top party, parliamentary and government representatives convene to confirm his ascension.

AP

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