N. Korea mourns Kim Jong Il

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Koreans marched by the thousands Monday to their capital’s landmarks to mourn Kim Jong Il, many crying uncontrollably and flailing their arms in grief over news of their “dear leader’s” death.

North Korean state media proclaimed his twenty-something son Kim Jong Un a “great successor,” while a vigilant world watched for any signs of a turbulent transition to the untested leader in an unpredictable nation known to be pursuing nuclear weapons.

On the streets of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, people wailed in grief, some kneeling on the ground or bowing repeatedly. Children and adults laid flowers at key memorials.

North Koreans walked in line past a giant painting of Kim Jong Il and his late father, national founder Kim Il Sung, standing together on Mount Paektu, Kim Jong Il’s official birthplace. Wreaths were neatly placed below the painting.

“How could the heavens be so cruel? Please come back, general. We cannot believe you’re gone,” Hong Son Ok shouted in an interview with North Korea’s official television, her body shaking wildly.

A foreigner who teaches at a university in Pyongyang told The Associated Press that students told about Kim’s death from a reported heart attack looked very serious but didn’t show any outward emotion.

“There was a blanket of silence” over Pyongyang, said the teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of worries about his security. “People were going about their business. Lots of people were lining up to lay flowers at official portraits. People looked a little stunned and very serious, but composed and respectful.”

The death comes at a sensitive time for North Korea as it prepares for next year’s 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. The preparations include massive construction projects throughout the city as part of Kim Jong Il’s unfulfilled promise to bring prosperity to his people.

The North said it would place Kim’s body in the Kumsusan memorial palace in Pyongyang and that his funeral would be Dec. 28.

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