North Korea today mourned the death one year ago of leader Kim Jong-Il, with its rocket scientists taking pride of place at a mass memorial ceremony led by his son and successor Kim Jong-Un.
Kim Jong-Il died of a heart attack on December 17, 2011, although his death was only announced to North Koreans and the world two days later.
Hundreds of thousands of people, civilian and military, stood stock still in ranked formation outside the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun mausoleum in Pyongyang, observing a moment’s silence.
Wrapped in heavy overcoats against the bitter winter cold, the mass crowd listened to a speech extolling the late Kim’s virtues delivered from a balcony where Kim Jong-Un, dressed all in black, watched over the proceedings.
The facade of the giant mausoleum, which houses the embalmed bodies of Kim Jong-Il and his father and founding president Kim Il-Sung, was dominated by two giant portraits of the former leaders under a flag flying at half-mast.
The ceremony was broadcast live on state TV, with an emotional commentary provided by a female announcer.
“Our people and the military are tearfully longing for the sunny smile of our dear father,” the announcer said.
“We yearn for you, and all the days we spent with you, with unendurable longing,” she added.
The Kim family has ruled the isolated, impoverished but nuclear-armed nation for more than six decades with an iron fist and a pervasive personality cult.
Earlier, Kim Jong-Un, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-Ju, led hundreds of top party and military officials in a formal memorial ceremony inside the mausoleum, bowing deeply before two giant statues of his father and grandfather.
The stone-faced officials clad in black were led by goose-stepping soldiers carrying a large floral tribute with a ribbon reading, “The great comrades Kim Jon-—Il and Kim Il-Sung stay with us forever.”
A group of scientists who worked on the North’s successful long-range rocket launch last week were among the first to pay tribute.
“These are scientists who made great contributions to the successful launch of our Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite and helped showcase the nation’s scientific technologies to the whole world,” the TV announcer said.
The North claimed Wednesday’s launch was a purely scientific project to put the weather satellite into orbit.
But the United States and other nations viewed it as a disguised ballistic missile test banned under UN resolutions triggered by its past nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
The Security Council condemned the launch and has promised “an appropriate response”. The launch was apparently timed to mark the death anniversary and to drum up more support for the young and inexperienced Jong-Un.