Snow, tears mark funeral for Kim

2011-12-28 10:50

kalahari.com

Seoul - The world watched anxiously on Wednesday as North Korea staged a huge funeral in the capital, Pyongyang, for former leader Kim Jong-il, searching for signs of what to expect from the isolated nation that may be close to attaining nuclear weapons capacity.

Bleak pictures from state television showed a funeral cortege led by a limousine carrying a huge picture of the 69-year old, who died on December 17, passing serried ranks of olive green-clad soldiers whose bare heads were bowed in homage in the main square of the snow-covered capital.

A hearse carrying the coffin was led by a weeping Kim Jong-un, the son and heir, accompanied by Jang Song-thaek, his uncle and a key power-broker in the transition, and Ri Yong-ho, the army chief of staff.

"Seeing this white snow fall has made me think of the general's efforts and this brings tears to my eyes," Seo Ju-rim, a red-cheeked, weeping female soldier, told North Korean television, referring to Kim.

One of the myths surrounding Kim Jong-il was that he could control the weather and state media has reported unusually cold and wild weather accompanying his death.

Video showed weeping civilians who swayed with grief and shouted "father, father" as black Lincoln and Mercedes limousines and army trucks streamed past the crowds. It was not clear whether the pictures were live or recorded.

Strong and prosperous nation

"I wished it was a dream, how can this be true," sobbed one middle-aged woman named Kim. "How can anything like this ever happen in the world?"

Kim Jong-un will become the third member of the family to run the unpredictable North Asian country as it enters 2012, the year that was supposed to mark its self-proclaimed transformation into a "strong and prosperous" nation.

Larry Niksch, who has tracked North Korea for the nonpartisan US Congressional Research Service for 43 years, believes it could take as little as one to two years to have a working nuclear missile once the North produced enough highly enriched uranium for the warhead's core fuel.

The prospect of an untested leader, believed to be in his late 20s, having nuclear capacity has alarmed many.

"Yes, we are watching and will be analysing how any changes can be reflected in our policy," a South Korean government official said. He was not authorised to speak to the media, so could not be identified.

Uncle Jang, power behind the throne

State television showed Jang Song-thaek walking directly behind Kim Jong-un alongside the limousine carrying the coffin. Jang ranks a lowly 19th in the list of names on the state funeral committee but his public elevation confirms that he will play a key role in shaping policies.

An ascetic-looking, bespectacled 65-year-old, Jang has overcome a purge, bitter palace intrigue and personal tragedy to become vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, the supreme leadership council which Kim Jong-il led as head of the military state.

"Kim Jong-un is clearly the head of the new leadership but, in terms of hierarchy and influence, Jang appears to have secured considerable position," said Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korea expert at Korea University in the south.

Strong it may be - North Korea is backed by neighbouring China, has conducted two nuclear tests and has a 1.2 million-strong armed forces - but prosperous it is not.

On average, the 25 million North Koreans have a life expectancy three-and-a-half years lower than they did when "Eternal President" Kim Il-sung, the new leader's grandfather, died in 1994, according to UN data.

The United Nations, in a country programme for 2011-15, says North Korea's main challenge is to "restore the economy to the level attained before 1990" and to alleviate food shortages for a third of its 25 million population.

Indications from the transition since Kim Jong-il's death suggest his "military first" policy will continue, leading to further hardship in a country that endured mass starvation in the 1990s.

Leverage from outside, with the exception of China, is limited. All the United States, South Korea and Japan can do is hope that the regime does not collapse, nor flex its military muscle as it did in 2010, when it shelled a South Korean island.

North Korea was established in 1948 and under its founding father, Kim Il-sung, went to war to try to conquer the South. It failed and in 1953 a dividing line that would become the world's most militarised frontier was drawn across the peninsula.

Prospects of a purge

While Kim Il-sung was revered by his people for fighting Japanese colonial rule, the halo surrounding his successors has steadily dimmed to such an extent that his grandson, the new ruler, will have to rely on people such as his uncle, Jang, to hold on to power, at least in the short term.

Official media in the North have built Kim Jong-un, a jowly and rotund man in his late 20s, into a leader worthy of inheriting the crown, naming him "respected general", "great successor", "outstanding leader" and "supreme commander".

This year, dissident groups based in South Korea, citing North Korean refugees and businessmen working in China, linked the youngest Kim to a crackdown on business activities and a tougher policy on people seeking to flee from North Korea.

Those reports could not be verified independently, but would again suggest that further repression is more likely than an economic opening under the new man.

It also gives little hope for the 200 000 North Koreans who human rights group Amnesty international says are enslaved in labour camps, subjected to torture and hunger or execution.

"There is likely to be a politically motivated purge and imprisonment, and it could go on for a considerable period of time," said Pak Sang-hak, who heads a group in Seoul working to support defectors, and is himself a defector.

"That is especially because of the relative instability of Kim Jong-un's leadership. There might also be persecution as a way of intimidation and discipline."

Read more on:    kim jong-il  |  north korea
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Monday Kuils River - 17:34 PM
    Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound
    ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit
  • Sunday Parow - 08:10 AM
    Road name: Mike Pienaar Boulevard
    WEEKENDS - ROAD CLOSED between Voortrekker Road and Tienie Meyer Drive due to roadworks (until end July)
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Outbound Call Centre Agent

Cape Town Southern Suburbs
Hi-Tech Recruitment (JHB)
R5 500+ Per Month

HRBP

Cape Town
DAV Professional Placement Group
R1 000 000 Per Year

C # Developer ( Hire Resolve )

Cape Town
Hire Resolve
R15 000 - R18 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 9360

The BlackBerry Curve 9360 smartphone comes preloaded with Blackberry OS7...

From R1455.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may come up to alert you of your security needs. It may be that you need to create a better structure for your finances...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.