A final day of mourning has begun in North Korea to bid farewell to Kim Jong-il.

The communist state on Thursday began a national memorial service featuring tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians for the late leader, state television showed.

It comes a day after tens of thousands of people lined the streets of the capital Pyongyang to pay their last respects to the late leader.

The country's de facto head of state Kim Yong-Nam was making an address to the vast crowd filling a Pyongyang square.

Kim's son and successor Kim Jong-un headed the platform. The official news agency described him as "supreme leader of the party, state and army".

The service will end 13 days of mourning following Kim Jong-il's death on December 17.

Funeral procession

On Wednesday, North staged a huge funeral procession in Pyongyang for its "dear leader", 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, passing ranks of uniformed soldiers whose bare heads were bowed in homage.

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


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

"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.

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."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies