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North Korea mourns death of Kim Jong-il

Hundreds of thousands mark one year since death of former leader at mass memorial ceremony.
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2012 10:17

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have observed ceremonies marking one year since the death of Kim Jong-il, the former leader of the country.

A mass memorial ceremony took place in Pyongyang on Monday and was led by the former leader's 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, during a three-minute silence observed across the entire country.

The 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 television, 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.

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.

Scientists pay respects

A group of scientists who worked on the country's successful 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 television 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.

In one of Pyongyang's main squares, people left floral tributes at the foot of giant statues of the two Kims, with state media saying at least 750,000 mourners had paid their respects on Sunday alone.

"People from all walks of life desperately longing for our father... are flooding the site day and night," the official Korean Central News Agency said.

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