Dead body of North Korean “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il has been laid in state in a glass coffin as weeping mourners filled public squares across the country.
State television showed still images of the Kim Jong-Il body in the open coffin, surrounded by wreaths and covered with a red blanket.
Kim Jong-Un – his third son and successor – paid his respects to his father along with top military and Workers’ Party officials during a “solemn ceremony”.
North Korea declared an 11-day period of official mourning, with flags flown at half-mast at all military units, factories, businesses, farms and public buildings.
The streets of the capital Pyongyang were quiet, but crowds of people gathered at landmarks to mourn Kim Jong-Il who died suddenly on Saturday from a massive heart attack at the age of 69.
Kim Jong-Il ruled North Korea for 17 years in a brutal and repressive dictatorship.
Under his regime’s economic mismanagement, a terrible famine in the 1990s caused the death of millions from starvation and hardship.
The tyrant imprisoned thousands of political “opponents” and there is no access to freedom of the press, the internet or health care in the country.
The dictator’s body was lying in state in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, a mausoleum where the embalmed body of his father – national founder Kim Il-Sung – has been on display in a glass sarcophagus since his death in 1994.
A state funeral will be held there on December 28.
Ri Ho-Il, a lecturer at the Korean Revolutionary History Museum, said: “Our General is our people’s benevolent father. He defended our people’s happiness, carrying on his forced march night and day.”
Since Kim Jong-Il’s death, state media have stepped up their lavish praise of his son Kim Jong-Un in an effort to strengthen a cult of personality around him similar to that of his father.
Although there have been no signs of unrest or discord in Pyongyang’s somber streets, the possibility of a power struggle in a country seeking nuclear weapons and known for its secrecy has heightened tensions in the region.
North Korean officials said they will not invite foreign delegations and will allow no entertainment during the mourning period.
The Korean Central News Agency described Kim Jong-Un as a “great person born of heaven”, a propaganda term only his father and grandfather Kim Il-Sung had enjoyed.
The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party, described Kim Jon-Un as “the spiritual pillar and the lighthouse of hope” for the people.
It described him as “born of Mount Paektu” – one of Korea’s most cherished sites and Kim Jong-Il’s official birthplace.
Yesterday, North Korea’s military pledged to “uphold the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-Un” and called him a “great successor”.