North Korea Hails Kim Jong Un as ‘Supreme Leader’

Posted December 29th, 2011 at 2:00 am (UTC-5)
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Kim Jong Un has been declared supreme leader of North Korea's ruling party and military during a memorial service for his late father, Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang.

State television showed a massive gathering of people for the service in Kim Il Sung Square.

As the younger Kim watched from a palace balcony, ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam told the crowd Mr. Kim inherits his father's “ideology, character and revolutionary” cause.

“Our great comrade Kim Jong Il has solved the leadership succession matter perfectly, which is the most precious accomplishment for our country's destiny and endless prosperity of our descendants.”

The nation observed three minutes of silence as the ceremony ended at noon local time. State television showed citizens standing motionless with their heads bowed, as trains, ships and other vehicles sounded their horns.

The memorial service was part of the second day of funeral ceremonies for Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack on December 17.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of weeping North Koreans bade the late leader a final farewell as a black hearse carried his coffin through Pyongyang's snow-covered streets.

Foreign governments are watching events in Pyongyang closely because of concerns about the younger Kim's rise in a country with a nuclear program, a large army and a history of deep animosity toward its neighbors.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Mark Toner, said at a press briefing Wednesday that the funeral procession was obviously an emotional moment for North Koreans. In terms of North Korea's future leadership, he said Pyongyang has made some statements to clarify it, but that “we'll wait and see” what else emerges in the coming days and weeks. He said there is little insight into the country that has a “pretty opaque” political system.