Kim Jong-il lies in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace
North Korea on Tuesday mourned the death of its “Dear Leader” behind the impenetrable walls it erected under his rule, leaving the world straining for a glimpse of signs of a leadership transition that some fear could bring regional instability.
Kim Jong-il's youngest son and anointed successor, Kim Jong-un, who is only in his late twenties and is now charged with leading a nuclear-armed state facing dire economic problems, paid respects to his father on Tuesday, as his nation wept for the passing of its ruler.
Footage broadcast on state television showed Mr. Kim Jong-un, dressed in black, with his head lowered in front of his father's body, which lay in state in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.
Reinforcing the durability of the family dynasty, three generations of the ruling family that has directed the destiny of 23 million North Koreans for decades were brought together on Tuesday morning: the body of Mr. Kim Jong-un's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also lies in the same mausoleum.
Kim Jong-il's body was enclosed in a glass case and surrounded by signs of his legacy — a bed of red “Kimjongilia” roses, which were cultivated as part of the elaborate personality cult built around Kim, and a grieving group of military men, who still hold unrivalled influence in the country. The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the public was “wailing over the sudden and grievous death of Kim Jong-il”, a leader it described as the “eternally immovable mental mainstay of the Korean people.”
State media broadcast images of hundreds of citizens gathering in large groups and weeping. On Monday and Tuesday, only weeping North Koreans were allowed to board trains, leaving some foreigners confused and stranded, claimed one Chinese microblogger citing an acquaintance in Pyongyang.
Whether the weeping masses broadcast on State television were driven by genuine grief, the weight of a personality cult or fear of a ruthless regime was unclear beyond its borders: the KCNA's propaganda was the only available window into the reclusive country, leaving more questions than answers about the real mood of the people in the cut-off “Hermit Kingdom”.