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January 18, 2022

Mourners fill streets of Pyongyang for Kim Jong Il’s funeral

Kim Jong Un, the son of the late dictator, walks alongside the procession.

PYONGYANG – The funeral of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unfolded across the snow-laden streets of Pyongyang on Wednesday, a three-hour event that displayed the secretive regime’s ability to choreograph elaborate state ceremonies, CNN reported. A North Korean state television broadcast of the services showed a tearful Kim Jong Un, the son and chosen successor of Kim Jong Il, trudging through the snow alongside the procession as it began at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where Kim Jong Il’s body had been lying in state since his death earlier this month.

One black car carried on its roof a coffin draped in the flag of the nation’s Worker’s Party. Another transported a giant portrait of a smiling Kim. Senior officials accompanied the younger Kim, including Jang Song Taek, his uncle and a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission.

Soldiers stood with their heads bowed, their caps in hand. Their green uniforms contrasted starkly with the bright white snow as mournful music played. The long funeral cortege then sped up, weaving through the streets of the city past throngs of emotional mourners. In footage that the state television repeated several times, the mourners wailed and beat their chests, their hair damp from the falling snow. “That is our general,” said one soldier interviewed by the station. “In this snow, we have to send him off and it’s heart ripping.”

The funeral procession, consisting of dozens of cars, went as far as Kim Il Sung Square, named after the founder of North Korea and father of Kim Jong Il, before returning to the palace. At that point, soldiers fired a 21-shot salute as Kim Jong Un and other officials stood with their heads bowed.

The reclusive nation had revealed no details ahead of time about the funeral of the elder Kim, who was revered as a godlike “dear leader” by his people. He died December 17 – reportedly of a heart attack – after 17 years of repressive rule.

The funeral Wednesday gave a prominent role to a third generation of the family: Kim Jong Un, the man designated the “great successor” by the nation’s Worker’s Party. Questions have been raised about Kim Jong Un’s ability to take the reins of the communist nation, given his young age – he is thought to be in his late 20s – and relative inexperience. State news media have described the younger Kim as “Supreme leader” and “Sun of the 21st century,” suggesting he is succeeding in rallying support within the regime’s hierarchy.

Commemorations are expected to continue on Thursday, with a three-minute silence at noon local time, followed by trains and ships sounding horns. The national memorial service will then begin, the BBC said.

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