North Korea bids wintry farewell to leader

North Korea bids wintry farewell to leader

North Korea bids wintry farewell to leader

In this video-still from Korean Central TV of the North, the funeral ceremony for late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il drives through a street in Pyongyang. AP photo

Wailing North Koreans yesterday bade a final farewell to longtime leader Kim Jong-il as his young son and successor walked bareheaded beside his father’s coffin through a snowbound Pyongyang.

Tens of thousands of troops bowed their heads as the cortege left the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where the late strongman’s body had lain in a glass coffin. Mourning will officially end today.

Preceded by a car bearing a huge portrait of a smiling Kim and other vehicles, a limousine carried Kim’s coffin -- draped with a red flag and surrounded by white flowers -- on its roof. His son and “great successor” Jong-un, dressed in black and gloveless despite the cold, held the side of his father’s hearse. He was accompanied by his influential uncle Jang Song-Thaek; senior ruling party officials Kim Ki-Nam and Choe Thae-Bok; military chief Ri Yong-Ho; armed forces minister Kim Yong-Chun; and Kim Jong-Gak, who is in charge of military administration and organization. Analysts said the line-up gave some initial clues about who would influence the young and untested leader. “Kim Jong-un is clearly the head of the new leadership but, in terms of hierarchy and influence, Jang appears to have secured considerable position,” said Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korea expert at Korea University in the South.

Hundreds of thousands of shivering soldiers and civilians, many weeping bitterly or beating the frozen ground, were seen on state television lining the 40-kilometer route. “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 scenes of grief provide a clue at how effective North Korea has been in building a personality cult around Kim Jong-il even though people have suffered from food shortages. Kim Yong-Hyun of Seoul’s Dongguk University said Kim Ki-Nam and Choe Thae-Bok were symbolic figures representing the ruling party. “The other four including Jang are expected to play a key role in the next government under Jong-un.”

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.