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Kim Jong Un, center, walks with his hand on the limousine bearing his father Kim Jong Il's body earlier today in Pyongyang. (AFP/Getty Images)

Weeping, Wailing And Imagery In Pyongyang For Kim Jong Il's Funeral

Dec 28, 2011

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"Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans wept and wailed as they lined the major streets of Pyongyang Wednesday despite heavy snow," South Korea's Yonhap News reports, "as a hearse carrying the body of Kim Jong Il passed through the capital in a solemn funeral ceremony."

NPR's Anthony Kuhn, who is monitoring the news from Seoul, says that "for the first leg of the journey, Kim Jong Un walked at the front of a black limousine with his father's casket on the roof." The son, in his late 20s, is set to succeed his father as the nation's leader. Kim Jong Il died on Dec. 17. He was 69.

On Morning Edition today, Stephen Bosworth — who until recently was a U.S. special envoy to North Korea — told host Steve Inskeep that the image of Kim Jong Un walking beside that limousine with his hand on the fender, as a senior general walked on the other side, was "clearly an effort to establish a direct lineage between Kim Jong Il and his son."

"Giving this succession legitimacy is the major objective of what we've been seeing out of Pyongyang" today and since Kim Jong Il's death, Bosworth said.

Another expert makes much the same point to The Wall Street Journal:

"The point they're trying to make is the leadership is pretty stable," said Choi Jong-kun, professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul. "The key thing they want to put out is that succession is going smoothly."

But Bosworth also said that it's likely Kim Jong Un will be, at least for some time, "the face of the regime" but not as powerful a figure as either his father or grandfather were. "The people who are going to be exercising collective decision-making have much more experience" than the new leader, Bosworth said, and it is unlikely that "senior generals and party leaders are going to defer to him the way that they at least seemed to defer to his father."

There's an Associated Press video report here.

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