Jong-un mourns father; China reaffirms continued support
Two days after North Korea revealed the death of its “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il, the communist state appeared calm and stable in mourning the long-time strongman Wednesday, with the leadership transition to his third son moving forward.
Pyongyang’s state media broadcast Kim Jong-un, dubbed the “Great Successor,” shedding tears before his father’s body which is laid in a glass coffin near that of his grandfather and North Korean founder Kim Il-sung at Geumsusan Memorial Palace. The new ruler was seen leading an entourage of senior officials and receiving mourners.
For Jong-un, who is not yet 30, publicly presiding over the national funeral proceedings is an important milestone and would help him raise his image as a leader, analysts here said.
In another key milestone for him, China reassured its continuing support to North Korea.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and other senior officials visited the North Korean embassy in Beijing to offer their condolences on the death of Kim Jong-il.
A day earlier, a spokesperson for its Foreign Ministry said: “We would welcome North Korea’s leaders to visit China at their convenience.”
The words he used could refer to one leader or more than one leader.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry said the North showed no sign of unusual activities and appeared seeking to united the country by glorifying its late leader.
“With no sign of unusual activities, North Korea appears to be seeking to unite the country by repeatedly touting the late leader’s feats and showing people mourning,” Choi Boh-seon, the ministry’s spokesperson, told a press briefing.
“It is trying to raise the image of Kim Jong-un as next leader by developing a personality cult,” he added.
North Korea announced Monday that its leader had died of heart attack on a train on Saturday morning.
Ever since, the international communities had hoped for a soft landing in North Korea, fearing power struggles in this impoverished, isolated and heavily-armed state may lead to acts of aggression against South Korea.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba urged a peaceful and stable leadership transition in the North.
In Seoul, officials were trying to avoid any actions that could provoke the North, while dealing with a controversy over whether to allow mourners to cross the border.
A day earlier, the government offered condolences to North Koreans, but decided not to send official mourning delegation.
President Lee Myung-bak will return to his normal schedule Thursday, after spending two days presiding over emergency meetings.
As initial shock recedes, financial markets recovered to levels before the news broke.
By Lee Sun-young