According to North Korean state television, at least tens of thousands of North Koreans braved freezing temperatures and inches of snow Wednesday to witness the beginning of the two-day state funeral of Kim Jong Il. When the hearse passed them, many citizens wailed or beat their chests. Troops bowed their heads in the snow. As chief mourner, Kim Jong Eun stood next to the car carrying his father’s hearse, resting his hand on the fender in another sign that he will be successor.
But were the scenes of grief and agony staged or real? From Seoul, The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan reports that state television showed “hours of choreographed imagery,” that crowds “formed perfect geometric rows,” and that TV close-ups showed the same kind of scenes of hysteric grief that had their authenticity questioned the day the leader died.
“The displays typified North Korea’s unusual brand of theater, where it is often difficult to differentiate the staged from the real,” Harlan writes. He reports that at times the footage was even played on a loop, with repeating shots of the grieving crowd, despite insistences the broadcast was carried “live.”
Harlan also relates a story in which a defector who still talks illicitly with a relative in North Korea related to him a conversation they had had. “Agh,” the relative said. “I have to get up tomorrow morning and pretend to cry.”
Watch video of the funeral from the Associated Press below:
And a video that purportedly shows the mourners on state television, via Buzzfeed:
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