North Korea Wednesday bid a tearful farewell to the country's late leader Kim Jong-il as his body was taken from the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where it has been lying in state to the city's main plaza.

The ceremony to bid the last farewell to Kim Jong-il began at the plaza of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where his body has been lying in state, the official KCNA news agency reported.

The procession was expected to head to the city's main plaza.

TV footage also showed columns of troops standing in the snow on the plaza as a limousine carrying a huge portrait of the late leader moved slowly, reported Xinhua.

People wept as the motorcade passed them by.

The KCNA later reported that the motorcade of the hearse entered the Ryonghung intersection of Pyongyang and people lined up along the 40-km-long route.

Kim Jong-il died from "great mental and physical strain" Dec 17 on a train.

Kim's son Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be in his late 20s, is expected to take over as head of state.

TV footage showed Kim Jong-un walking beside the hearse.

Tens of thousands of soldiers with their heads bowed stood solemnly as a giant portrait of the departed Kim was carried slowly through the streets, said BBC.