N. Korea prepares huge send-off for late leader
North Korea was Tuesday preparing a massive ceremonial farewell to late leader Kim Jong-Il as it strove to strengthen a new personality cult around his youthful son and successor Jong-Un.
Tuesday 27 December 2011, 01:33PM
The secretive state has so far given no details whatever of Wednesday's funeral for its "Dear Leader" of the past 17 years.
But analysts say the regime, as it did in 1994 when Kim Jong-Il's own father died, will use the event to shore up loyalty to the new leader and will likely mobilise hundreds of thousands of people.
The untested Jong-Un, aged only in his late 20s, has been thrust into the world spotlight since his father died suddenly on December 17 aged 69.
Official media has added several titles to his flimsy CV, declaring him "great successor", supreme commander of the world's fourth-largest military and head of the ruling party's powerful Central Committee.
The son, who has not yet been formally appointed to the party and military posts, has been the central figure in scenes of mourning at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where his father lies in state in a glass coffin.
On Monday he met the leaders of two South Korean delegations at the palace, expressing "deep gratitude" for their presence, according to official media.
South Korea, which has remained technically at war with the North for six decades, has responded cautiously to the shake-up in its nuclear-armed neighbour.
Unlike in 1994, the Seoul government expressed sympathy to the North's people and made other conciliatory gestures.
But it authorised mourning visits to Pyongyang by just the two South Korean delegations, a restriction that the North termed "inhuman".
Lee Hee-Ho, widow of late South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung, and Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jung-Eun paid respects Monday to the late leader and expressed condolences to Jong-Un.
Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Jong-Il held the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000 and Hyundai pioneered cross-border business projects.
While Kim Jong-Il had 20 years to prepare for the communist world's only dynastic succession, Jong-Un has had barely three. Analysts will closely watch the funeral for possible clues about who will have most influence with him.
Jong-Un, "great successor to the Juche (self-reliance) revolutionary cause and sagacious leader of our party, state, army and people, is at the helm of the Korean revolution", the North's news agency reported early Tuesday.
South Korean media, basing their predictions on arrangements for the 1994 funeral, said the obsequies would likely begin at 10:00 am (0100 GMT) Wednesday, with Jong-Un and senior officials paying final respects at the memorial palace.
They said the military was expected to fire a 24-gun salute and troops would march through central Pyongyang, accompanying a limousine carrying Kim's coffin and another car with a giant photo.
Military marching bands would play funeral music while convoys of motorcycles and cars carrying flowers and senior officials would follow the coffin as hundreds of thousands looked on, the media forecast.
Mourning will officially end Thursday with a nationwide memorial service including a three-minute silence, the North's media has reported.
On Tuesday the South Korean delegations, who were to return later Wednesday across the heavily fortified border, met the North's de facto head of state and parliament chief Kim Yong-Nam, state media reported.
Lee and Hyun expressed hope that declarations agreed at summits in 2000 and 2007 would be implemented, it said.
On their way home they stopped off at the Kaesong industrial estate just north of the border -- the last major joint venture still functioning, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.
The complex, utilising the North's labour in Seoul-owned light industries, has survived high cross-border tensions of recent years.