North Korea staged a huge funeral in the capital for former leader Kim Jong-il, searching for signs of what to expect from the isolated nation that may be close to attaining nuclear weapons capacity
The world watched anxiously as North Korea yesterday staged a huge funeral in the capital for former leader Kim Jong-il, searching for signs of what to expect from the isolated nation that may be close to attaining nuclear weapons capacity.
Military personnel bow their heads in sorrow, as a limousine carries a portrait of Kim Jong-Il during his funeral at Kumsusan Memorial Palace
Bleak pictures from state television showed a funeral cortege led by a limousine carrying a huge picture of the 69-year-old, who died on December 17, passing serried ranks of olive green-clad soldiers whose bare heads were bowed in homage in the main square of the snow-covered capital. A hearse carrying the coffin was led by a weeping Kim Jong-un, the son and heir, accompanied by Jang Song-thaek, his uncle and a key power broker in the transition, and Ri Yong-ho, the army chief of staff.
"Seeing this white snow fall has made me think of the general's efforts and this brings tears to my eyes," Seo Ju-rim, a red-cheeked, weeping female soldier, told North Korean television, referring to Kim.
One of the myths surrounding Kim Jong-il was that he could control the weather and state media has reported unusually cold and wild weather accompanying his death.
His successor and third son, Kim Jong-un will run the unpredictable North Asian country as it enters 2012
Video showed weeping civilians who swayed with grief and shouted "father, father" as black Lincoln and Mercedes limousines and army trucks streamed past the crowds. It was not clear whether the pictures were live or recorded.
"I wished it was a dream, how can this be true," sobbed one middle-aged woman named Kim. "How can anything like this ever happen in the world?"
Kim Jong-un will become the third member of the family to run the unpredictable North Asian country as it enters 2012, the year that was supposed to mark its self-proclaimed transformation into a "strong and prosperous" nation.
Larry Niksch, who has tracked North Korea for the nonpartisan US Congressional Research Service for 43 years, believes it could take as little as one to two years to have a working nuclear missile once the North produced enough highly enriched uranium for the warhead's core fuel.
Military personnel in tears during Kim Jong-Il's funeral. Pics/AFP/NORTH KOREAN TV
The prospect of an untested leader, believed to be in his late 20s, having nuclear capacity has alarmed many. "Yes, we are watching and will be analysing how any changes can be reflected in our policy," a South Korean government official said. He was not authorised to speak to the media, so could not be identified.
Birth of the nation North Korea was established in 1948 and under its founding father, Kim Il-sung, went to war to try to conquer the South. It failed and in 1953 a dividing line that would become the world's most militarised frontier was drawn across the peninsula. The UN, in a country program for 2011-15, said North Korea's main challenge is to "restore the economy to the level attained before 1990".