Kim Jong Il’s Son Pays Last Respects at Open Casket

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 10:55 am (UTC-5)
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North Korea's apparent new leader Kim Jong Un visited Pyongyang's presidential mausoleum Tuesday to pay his respects to his father, Kim Jong Il, whose death on Saturday sparked an enormous public outpouring of grief in the closed communist nation.

The official Korean Central News Agency described the visit by Mr. Kim's third and youngest son as part of a “solemn ceremony” at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace that was attended by other senior leaders.

The North Korean report is the first to focus on the activities of Kim Jong Un since the news agency on Monday announced the death of his father. The body of the senior Mr. Kim is lying in state in a glass encasement near the embalmed body of his father, North Korean founding leader Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994.

Kim Jong Il's funeral will be held on December 28, near the end of a period of national mourning. State media say foreign delegations will not be allowed to attend the ceremony.

The 28-year-old Kim Jong Un received a crucial endorsement from China Tuesday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Beijing expects the North Korean people to rally around their new leader.

“We believe the North Korean people will be consolidated and will get tightly together around the Workers' Party of Korea, led by comrade Kim Jong Un, to keep stepping forward to building a strong Communist country and to realising permanent peace on the Korean peninsula.”

North Korean state media has referred to the younger Mr. Kim as the “great successor” and the “pillar of our people.”

Late last year, Kim Jong Il promoted his son to the rank of four-star general, in what was seen as a bid to extend the world's only communist dynasty to a third generation.

Despite that support, analysts say Kim Jong Un has had little time to earn the trust of power brokers in the military and the ruling Korean Workers' party.

Official media reported early Monday that the 69-year-old Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack Saturday while traveling by train on one of his “field guidance” tours. The agency attributed his death to “physical and mental overwork.”

North Korean television footage has continued to show extraordinary scenes of public grief since the death announcement.