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North Koreans laid Kim Jong-il to rest on Wednesday, December 28. According to the New York Times, the coffin of the late leader sat on the rooftop of a mid-1970s armored black Lincoln Continental. Kim Jong-un, the dynastic heir, walked alongside the Cadillac. According to Radio Pyongyang, two million mourners lined up the streets for this elaborate funeral.
Agence France Presse quoted Yang Moo-Jin of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, when he said, “The grief for Kim Il-sung was genuine, with many people expressing real sorrow. The mood this time appears to be slightly different”.
As the funeral progressed, Mr. Kim’s two elder sons, Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-chol, were out of sight. Neither have been pictured mourning his father’s death, nor were they a part of the official funeral committee. This absence raises suspicion about the kind of relationship the sons had with their late father. However, several military generals and party secretaries were present. The most well known figures were Ri Yong-ho, vice marshal in charge of North Korean military’s general staff, and Jang Song-taek, Kim Jong-un’s uncle and vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission.
Lee Dong-bok, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “Kim Jong-il died a little ahead of schedule; things weren’t ready for the smooth relay of power. The young man isn’t prepared to take control by himself. He needs help.”
Today, the 29-year-old Kim Jong-un is left with a title that took his father 20 years to prepare for, while he had merely three. Despite having exalted titles such as full general, he has little experience compared to what his father had in 1994, when his grandfather, Kim Il-sung died. Experts believe that the success of Kim Jong-un will depend on the guidance of his uncle, Jang Song-taek, and his wife, Kim Kyong-hui, the sister of the late Kim Jong-il.
CBS News reports that Kim Jong-il’s heartfelt presence is felt in every building, where his portraits hang and his visits to factories are commemorated with signs in his honor. Kim Jong Il’s funeral lasted for three hours and followed the same protocol set in 1994 with the death of his father. The late leader was laid to rest in an underground mausoleum.
Indeed, the late leader’s death marks an end of an era for North Korea, which has only known two leaders, Mr. Kim and his father, North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung. Today, a new era has already begun with the leadership of Mr. Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un.