By Julian Ryall
December 27, 2011
State media have so far given no indications of how the event will proceed, although it is likely to be similar to the funeral for Kim’s father, Kim Il-sung, and underline the achievements of his rule and his commitment to the North Korea people.
Since Kim’s death was announced on December 19, two days after he apparently suffered a fatal heart attack, North Korean television has broadcast scenes of wailing citizens prostrating themselves before pictures and statues of Kim.
The Korean Central News Agency has reported that “the while country is wrapped in an atmosphere of mourning” and workers are “overcome with indescribable grief.”
The media is simultaneously playing up the attributes and wisdom of Kim Jong-un, who has inherited his father’s role as the leader of the nation, despite his youth. Kim Jong-un, who is believed to be 28 years old, was on Monday appointed to the top post in North Korea’s Workers’ Party.
The KCNA has described him as the “sagacious leader of the party, state and army of the DPRK.”
Authorities in South Korea have meanwhile threatened to resort to force to prevent students and supporters of the regime in North Korea setting up altars to mourn Kim Jong-il’s death.
Private security guards and officials of the elite Seoul National University have already torn down an altar set up in the grounds of the university and rejected requests from three students to burn incense on an altar in the student union building in honour of the later North Korean leader, Yonhap news agency reported.
“I thought it was the least we could do to show respect to a partner in forging peace on the Korean Peninsula,” one of the three students told Yonhap, referring to Kim as one of the participants in summit meetings with former South Korean presidents Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Moo-Hyun.
“It is a controversial issue that we do not even have one space to mourn the death in this country,” the student said.
The police have issued clear warnings that anyone who attempts to pay tribute to Kim Jong-il is breaking the law.
“Setting up altars to mourn Chairman Kim constitutes crimes against the National Security Law, which bans applauding and sympathising (with the communist North),” an official of the National Police Agency said. “We may even resort to force in order to prevent incense altars.”
In addition to students’ groups, organisations of people found guilty of breaking South Korea’s strict security law have been refused permission to set up memorials in central Seoul.
Under the law, anyone caught in possession of or intending to create materials that praise the regime in the North is liable to be punished as a supporter of a national enemy. The 1950-’53 Korean War is still not officially over as it came to a close with the signing of a truce rather than a peace treaty.
On Monday, Kim Jong-un met the leaders of two South Korean delegations in Pyongyang, with the widow of the late Kim Dae-Jung and the chairwoman of the Hyundai Group conglomerate expressing their condolences.
North Korea’s official news agency said Kim Jong-un “expressed deep gratitude” for their visit, although the North has criticised the ban on other South Koreans visiting Pyongyang to pay their respects as “inhuman.”