Media build up Kim Jong Un
His youngest son and heir led a ceremony and was hailed as a "lighthouse of hope."
PYONGYANG, North Korea - 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.
Contrived as they might look to Western eyes, the wild expressions of grief at funerals - the convulsive sobbing, pounding, and body-shaking bawling - are an accepted part of Korean Confucian culture.
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, 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 music played. Various medals and honors were displayed at his feet. The bier was 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 1994.
Kim Jong Il's 27-year-old son and heir, Kim Jong Un, wore a black Mao-style suit. Stepping away from the group, Kim Jong Un bowed deeply, his expression serious, before circling the bier with other officials.
The announcement Monday of Kim's death raised acute worries in the region over the possibility of a power struggle between the untested son and rivals in an impoverished and reclusive country with a nuclear program. But there have been no signs of unrest or discord in Pyongyang.
With the country in an 11-day period of official mourning, flags were at half-staff at all military units, factories, businesses, farms, and public buildings. The streets of Pyongyang were quiet, but throngs gathered at landmarks honoring Kim. A state funeral is set for Dec. 28 in Pyongyang, to be followed by a national memorial service the next day.
Outside one of the capital's main performance centers, mourners carried wreaths and flowers toward a portrait of Kim Jong Il. Groups were allowed to grieve in front of the portrait for a few minutes at a time. "We will change today's sorrow into strength and courage and work harder for a powerful and prosperous nation, as our general wanted, under the leadership of the new general, Kim Jong Un," Pyongyang resident U Son Hui told the Associated Press.
Since Kim's death, the media stepped up their lavish praise of the son, indicating an effort to strengthen a cult of personality around him similar to that of his father and, much more strongly, of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.
The Korean Central News Agency described Kim Jong Un as "a great person born of heaven," a propaganda term previously used only for his father and grandfather. The newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party added in an editorial that Kim Jong Un is "the spiritual pillar and the lighthouse of hope." It described the young Kim as "born of Mount Paektu," one of Korea's cherished sites, and called him a "great successor."