North Korea has staged a huge funeral procession in the capital Pyongyang for its "dear leader" Kim Jong-il, readying a transition to his son Kim Jong-un.

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 ranks of uniformed soldiers whose bare heads were bowed in homage.

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

Thousands of people who had gathered on the snow-bound streets to observe the procession could be heard wailing as the hearse passed.

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

One commentator for the procession said: "He gave us prosperity, and even now that he is leaving us, he only leaves us bright memories. ... And these cries and the sadness of the people, who can't help crying at the sight of our great leader leaving."


Al Jazeera's Steve Chao looks at the role of North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un

Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from the South Korean capital, Seoul, said the funeral procession was very similar to the one held in 1994 for Kim Jong-il's father.

He said that already the image of Kim Jong-un is being projected very powerfully, with footage being released in the media of him crying over the death of his father.

"The elite in the country are focused on keeping stability, and preventing the breakdown of the regime," our correspondent said. "They are rallying around Kim Jong-un."

"According to some reports, he is a bit of a hardliner himself," he said. "He is a very young man suddenly in charge of a nuclear weaponised state, but he is also surrounded by old-timers."

Mourning will officially end on Thursday with a nationwide memorial service, including a three-minute silence at noon.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies