Son of late North Korean leader leads mourning

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea’s anointed heir Kim Jong Un led a solemn procession of mourners Tuesday to the glass coffin of his father and longtime ruler — a strong indication that a smooth leadership transition was under way in the country known for secrecy and unpredictability.

Weeping members of North Korea’s elite filed past the body of Kim Jong Il, which was draped in red cloth and surrounded by stony-faced honor guards and dozens of red and white flowers.

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North Koreans bow to a portrait of Kim Jong Il, a day after his death was announced, in one of many organized displays of mass mourning Tuesday in the capital Pyongyang.

State media fed a budding personality cult around his youngest known son, hailing him as a “lighthouse of hope” as the country was awash in a “sea of tears and grief.”

In a dreamlike scene captured by Associated Press Television News, Kim’s coffin appeared to float on a raft of “kimjongilia” — the flowers named after him — with his head and shoulders bathed in a spotlight as solemn mustic played. Various medals and honors were displayed at his feet.

The bier was located in a hall of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, a mausoleum where the embalmed body of Kim Jong Il’s father and North Korean founder Kim Il Sung has been on view in a glass sarcophagus since his death in 1994.

Kim Jong Il’s 27-year-old son and heir, Kim Jong Un, wore a black Mao-style suit, his hair cropped closely on the sides but longer on top, as he walked with much older officials in suits and military uniforms.

Stepping away from the group, Kim Jong Un bowed deeply, his expression serious, before circling the bier with other officials.

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