North Korea declared on Thursday the young untested heir Kim Jong-un as supreme head of the country, as tens of thousands of people rallied in Pyongyang one day after the funeral of his father, Kim Jong-il, to swear their allegiance to the dynastic transfer of power.

The large crowd, mostly of soldiers, packed the plaza named after Kim Jong- un's grandfather, the North's founding President Kim Il-sung, to hold a memorial service for Kim Jong-il. The event capped 13 days of national mourning over Kim Jong-il's death and introduced the era of his son.

“Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un is now supreme leader of our party, military and people,” said Kim Yong-nam, president of the North Korean Parliament and the ceremonial head of state. “He inherits the ideology, leadership, courage and audacity of Comrade Kim Jong-il.”

In a speech to the crowd, he also called on the North Koreans to “solidify the monolithic leadership” of Kim Jong-un.

From a balcony, with top party officials and military brass standing behind him, the new leader looked over the snow-covered plaza, where people stood in neat rows. He was dressed in a black greatcoat — a winter dress code favoured by his grandfather, who was a Godlike figure among North Koreans that the young leader appeared to copy in dress, demeanour and physique.

Kim Jongun, believed to be in his late 20s, was unveiled as successor in September last year, following his father's 2008 stroke.

After his father's sudden death Dec. 17, he was rapidly elevated to the top military and party posts, although he has yet to assume those official titles.

How much he has consolidated his grip on power before his father's death and whether he would have to depend on caretakers or even regents remain topics of intense speculation and contention among outside analysts. All indications from the North, however, suggest that at least in the public eye, he will not share power with anyone.

North Korea said the "great successor" will faithfully follow his father's songun, or "military-first," policy, which has raised tensions with Washington and Seoul. — New York Times News Service

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