Post-Kim era sparks worry
The front pages of selected Shanghai newpapers are seen reporting on the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il yesterday. In this image (inset), the body of North Korean leader is laid in a memorial palace as weeping mourners filled public plazas and state media fed a budding personality cult around his third son. AFP PhotoNorth Korea yesterday displayed the body of late leader Kim Jong-il in a glass coffin and heaped praise on his son and successor amid world apprehension over the transition in the nuclear-armed nation.
As the country mourned, Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s youngest known son and successor, visited the body with top military and Workers’ Party officials and held what state media called a “solemn ceremony” in the capital Pyongyang, indicating the leadership transition in the world’s only communist dynasty was on track.
Still images aired on state TV showed the glass coffin holding Kim Jong-il’s body surrounded by his namesake flowers, red kimjongilia blossoms. He was covered with a red blanket and his head rested on a white pillow.
With the country in an 11-day period of official mourning, flags were flown at half-mast at all military units, factories, businesses, farms and public buildings. The streets of Pyongyang were quiet, but throngs of people gathered at landmarks honoring the late “Supreme Leader,” video footages from Pyongyang showed.
North Korean state media have given clear indications that Kim Jong-un will succeed his father. The North’s official news agency touted the young and inexperienced son as the “pillar of our people” and “a great person born of heaven,” a propaganda term previously used only for his father and grandfather. “At the frontline of our revolution stands Comrade Kim Jong-un, the great successor of the Juche [self-reliance] revolution and the outstanding leader of the party, military and people,” reports said. “Comrade Kim Jong-un is the unwavering spiritual and ideological pillar of our people.”
Amid wariness about North Korea’s future under the untested Kim Jong-un, Britain, France and Germany voiced hope for a new dawn after a tumultuous year that has seen regimes topple across the Arab world. China said yesterday it had held telephone talks with the U.S. and South Korea on the importance of ensuring security on the Korean peninsula. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi spoke by telephone with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Weimin told a routine media briefing.
“[They] agreed it is important to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and would maintain close communication and coordination with the Chinese side,” Liu said. Yang also promised that China would “make concerted efforts with all sides” to ensure security in the region.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States was “deeply concerned” for North Korea’s citizens and offered “thoughts and prayers.” The U.S. hoped the new North Korean leadership “will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by honoring North Korea’s commitments, improving relations with its neighbors and respecting the rights of its people,” Clinton said in a statement Dec. 19.
“We are deeply concerned with the wellbeing of the North Korean people, and our thoughts and prayers are with them during these difficult times,” she said after U.S. leaders earlier voiced concern over transition after the death of the long-time strongman leader.
Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.