North Korea names new 'supreme leader'

2011-12-29 08:28
North Korean television shows the country's next leader Kim Jong-Un during a memorial service for his late father Kim Jong-Il, in Pyongyang. (KRT via APTN, AP)

North Korean television shows the country's next leader Kim Jong-Un during a memorial service for his late father Kim Jong-Il, in Pyongyang. (KRT via APTN, AP)

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Seoul - North Korea on Thursday staged a massive memorial service for late leader Kim Jong-Il attended by tens of thousands, and declared his untested young son and successor the supreme party and military chief.

"Respected comrade Kim Jong-Un is the supreme leader of our party and the military who inherited Kim Jong-Il's spirit, leadership, personality, morality and fortitude," said ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-Nam.

Addressing a vast crowd filling a wintry Pyongyang square, he praised the late Kim for contributing to "global peace and stability of the 21st century".

Jong-Un, clad in a black overcoat, headed the platform. The official news agency also described him as "supreme leader of the party, state and army".

13 days of mourning

The service in Kim Il-Sung Square, named after the communist country's founder and father of the late Kim, will end 13 days of mourning following Kim Jong-Il's death on December 17 from a heart attack at the age of 69.

The country observed three minutes of silence nationwide at noon (03:00 GMT), punctuated by the horns of ships and railway engine whistles.

The service follows Wednesday's pomp-filled funeral which analysts said was designed to bolster the image of Kim Jong-Un, who is in his late 20s and emerged from obscurity only in the past couple of years.

The son inherits a daunting in-tray, including severe food shortages, a crumbling economy, acute power shortages and a nuclear programme which has alienated the West.

UN agencies have said six million people - a quarter of the population - urgently need food aid.

"The great heart of comrade Kim Jong-Il has ceased to beat... such an unexpected and early departure from us is the biggest and the most unimaginable loss to our party and the revolution," Kim Yong-Nam told the crowd, his voice throbbing with emotion.

The North would "transform the sorrow into strength and courage 1 000 times greater under the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-Un and will march firmly along the path of Songun taught by great leader Kim Jong-Il".

The Songun military-first policy prioritises the welfare of the 1.2 million-strong armed forces over civilians.

Support

Another speaker, Kim Jong-Gak, pledged the military's loyalty to the youthful new leader, who has been named a general but has not served in the armed forces.

"Our people's military will serve comrade Kim Jong-Un at the head of our revolutionary troops and will continue to maintain and complete the Songun accomplishments of great leader Kim Jong-Il," he said.

Recalling that the late leader had ordered the military to serve General Kim Jong-Un well, he said all troops "will become a wall to protect" him.

Kim Jong-Gak is in charge of military administration and organisation.

Next to the new leader on the rostrum was military chief Ri Yong-Ho. Also in the line-up were Kim Jong-Gak, Kim Yong-Nam, senior ruling party officials Kim Ki-Man and Choe Thae-Bok, and defence minister Kim Yong-Chun.

It was not immediately clear if the new leader's uncle Jang Song-Thaek was also on the rostrum. Analysts expect him to enjoy an influential role as adviser to the young Kim.

The service ended with an artillery salute.

Since the elder Kim died, the North's propaganda machine has been heaping fulsome praise on both him and Jong-Un, who has already been declared the "great successor".

Jong-Un was at the forefront of Wednesday's three-hour funeral procession which brought tens of thousands of shivering soldiers and civilians onto the snowbound streets of Pyongyang, many weeping or beating the frozen ground.

He walked bareheaded and gloveless alongside the hearse bearing his father's body as it left and returned to the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.

Jong-Un's highly visible presence was in contrast to the 1994 funeral of Kim Il-Sung, when Kim Jong-Il did not follow his father's motorcade, Baek Seung-Joo of the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses in South Korea pointed out.

Ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday stressed the late Kim's achievements in giving his country dignity as a country "that manufactured and launched artificial satellites and accessed nukes".

Read more on:    kim jong-il  |  kim jong-un  |  north korea
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