The younger Kim, thought to be in his late 20s, led the funeral procession, walking beside the black hearse, draped in a red revolutionary flag, that held his father’s body. Kim’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, an apparent caretaker in the power transfer, walked several steps behind with other Workers’ Party and military officials.
State television, broadcasting to the outside world, showed hours of the choreographed imagery that underpins the Kim family personality cult. The funeral motorcade was led by a black sedan with a massive portrait of a smiling Kim Jong Il affixed to its roof. The hearse followed close behind, flanked by several jeeps and trailed by a fleet of black Mercedes-Benzes and a formation of goose-
stepping, flag-bearing soldiers.
The procession traveled a 25-mile loop around Pyongyang, the capital, passing Kim Il Sung Plaza, Kim Il Sung Stadium and North Korea’s Arch of Triumph, the state-run news agency reported. At times, snow fell so heavily that the black-clad mourners could scarcely see the motorcade until it materialized in front of them, with Kim Jong Il’s portrait emerging from the whiteness.
Based on television footage, tens of thousands of people, at least, lined the streets. In the open plaza, they formed perfect rows. TV close-ups showed scenes of hysterical grief, with soldiers pulling at one another in apparent agony and women dropping to their knees. One middle-age man, interviewed by the state news agency, could barely manage to speak.
The displays typified North Korea’s unusual brand of political theater, in which it is often difficult to tell the staged from the real. At times, footage was clearly on a loop, repeating shots of the motorcade and the grieving crowds. But the broadcast was carried “live,” North Korea said.
“Kim Jong Il’s heart has stopped,” a narrator said, “but his generous image will forever stay in people’s hearts.”
Kim Jong Eun was shown only at the beginning and end of the three-hour broadcast, as the hearse left from and returned to a memorial palace where the Dear Leader’s body had lain in state.
North Korean media have already declared Kim Jong Il’s youngest son the Great Successor, and the state’s propaganda arm has worked since the elder Kim’s death to assure a smooth transfer of power.
On Thursday, at a memorial for Kim Jong Il, the successor, head bowed, looked on from a balcony. The ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong Nam, told the crowd in the main plaza that Kim Jong Eun had inherited his father’s “ideology, character and revolutionary” cause.