Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August 2014, 11:05 GMT

North Korea holds funeral for 'Dear Leader'

Publisher Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Publication Date 28 December 2011
Cite as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, North Korea holds funeral for 'Dear Leader', 28 December 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f1431f11e.html [accessed 21 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

December 28, 2011

Thousands of weeping North Koreans have lined the snowy streets of Pyongyang to pay their last respects to their "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il, during his state funeral procession.

The leader, who died of a heart attack on December 17 at age 69, led the nation with an iron fist after succeeding his father, Kim Il Sung, in 1994.

Images from North Korean state television showed the funeral procession, led by a limousine carrying a huge picture of the deceased Kim, passing lines of soldiers with heads bowed.

An unnamed North Korean soldier, speaking from the procession on the snow-covered capital's main square, conveyed his emotions to state television.

"The snow is endlessly falling like tears. How could the sky not cry when we've lost our general who was a great man from the sky? As we're separated from the general by death, people, mountains, and sky are all shedding tears of blood," the soldier said.

A hearse carrying Kim's coffin mounted on its roof rolled through the square accompanied on foot by a weeping Kim Jong Un, Kim's third son and designated successor.

Also present were Jang Song Thaek, the younger Kim's uncle and a key power-broker in the transition, and Ri Yong Ho, the army chief of staff.

Weeping civilians swayed with grief and shouted "father, father." No foreign dignitaries were present at the funeral.

A national memorial service is expected to take place at noon on December 29.

The world will watch North Korea anxiously in the coming year.

The year 2012 was supposed to mark North Korea's self-proclaimed transformation into a "strong and prosperous" nation, but it now faces a dangerous transition to a young, untested leader at a time when dictatorships across the world are tumbling.

Little is set to change in the country, which has staged what many analysts have dubbed a "Great March Backwards" over the last 20 years. With a nuclear arsenal and 1.2 million-strong armed forces, North Korea is a strong military power but most of its citizens are impoverished.

On average, North Koreans die 3-1/2 years earlier than they did when "Eternal President" Kim Il Sung ruled, according to UN data.

Many observers believe that Kim Jong Il's "military first" policy will continue under his son's rule, leading to further hardship in a country that endured mass starvation in the 1990s.

with agency reports

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