North Korea Marks 70th Birthday of Late Kim Jong Il

Posted February 16th, 2012 at 11:30 am (UTC-5)
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North Koreans on Thursday commemorated the 70th birthday of their late leader Kim Jong Il, with thousands of soldiers marching through Pyongyang and hundreds of senior officials pledging their allegiance to his ruling son, Kim Jong Un.

Soldiers stood in strict formation outside the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where they listened to speeches praising newly-installed Kim Jong Un, his late father, and his late grandfather, founding leader Kim Il Sung. Thousands more North Koreans bowed as they laid flowers at the foot of a portrait of Kim Jong Il, who died in December.

State television showed images of the new leader paying respects to his father at the palace. The senior Mr. Kim's body has been on display there since his death two months ago.

Kim Jong Un praised his father's accomplishments in a eulogy Wednesday attended by hundreds of military and civilian officials.

Thursday's festivities, dubbed the “Day of the Shining Star,” cap weeks of pomp and ceremony honoring Kim Jong Il, as the country's leadership marshaled support for its new leader.

In South Korea, a group of activists, including defector Park Sang-hak, marked the anniversary by sending balloons,filled with leaflets decrying the authoritarian North Korean leadership, across the border.

“To commemorate Kim Jong Il's 70th birthday, his successor, Kim Jong Un, is forcing North Koreans to swear fidelity under the name of his father. We sent leaflets to North Korea to let people know the truth of the succession which is hypocritical and fake.”

North Korea's powerful military and its political leaders appear to have rallied around their new leader, brushing off suggestions that he is too young and inexperienced at age 28 to lead the nuclear-armed communist country.