Pyongyang: The embalmed body of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was displayed on Tuesday as the nation mourned at his first death anniversary.
Riding high on pride over the successful launch of a long range rocket, North Korea on Monday observed the first death anniversary of Kim Jong Il and following the tradition, the mausoleum where Kim's body is lying in state, was reopened for guests.
Kim Jong Un followed by top military and government officials, led the reopening of the sprawling mausoleum where his father’s body now lies in state near that of his grandfather, the nation’s founder Kim Il Sung.
Kumsusan, the palace where his father, Kim Il Sung, served as president, was first opened as a mausoleum on the first anniversary of his death in 1994.
Kim Jong Il is presented lying beneath a red blanket, a spotlight shining on his face in a room suffused in red.
North Korean women sobbed into the sashes of their traditional Korean dresses as they bowed before his body. The hall bearing the glass coffin was opened to select visitors — including The Associated Press — for the first time since his death.
North Korea also unveiled Kim's yacht and his armored train carriage, where he is said to have died. Among the personal belongings featured in the mausoleum are the parka, sunglasses and pointy platform shoes he famously wore in the last decades of his life. A MacBook Pro lay open on his desk.
North Koreans paid homage to Kim and basked in the success of last week's launch of a long-range rocket that sent a satellite named after him to space.
The launch, condemned in many other capitals as a violation of bans against developing its missile technology. North Korean space officials say the satellite would be used to study crops and weather patterns.
US officials have said the satellite is tumbling in orbit and not acting as it should. Nevertheless, in North Korea, the launch's success in getting the satellite into space was portrayed as a gift to Kim Jong Il and also as proof that his young son, Kim Jong Un, has the strength and vision to lead the country.
The elder Kim died last Dec. 17 from a heart attack while traveling on his train. His death was followed by scenes of North Koreans dramatically wailing in the streets of Pyongyang, and of the 20-something son leading ranks of uniformed and gray-haired officials through funeral and mourning rites.
The mood in the capital was decidedly more upbeat a year later, with some of the euphoria carrying over from last Wednesday's launch. The satellite bears one of Kim Jong Il's nicknames, Kwangmyongsong, or "Lode Star," a moniker given to him at birth according to the official lore.
Cameras were not allowed inside the mausoleum, and state media did not release any images of Kim Jong Il's body.
With the death anniversary came a hint that Kim Jong Un himself might soon be a father.
His wife, Ri Sol Ju, was seen on state TV with what appeared to be a baby bump as she walked slowly next to her husband at the mausoleum, where they bowed to statues of Kim's father and grandfather.
There is no official word from Pyongyang about a pregnancy. In addition, Ri is shown wearing a billowing traditional Korean dress in black that makes it difficult to know for sure.
To honor Kim's father, North Koreans stopped in their tracks at midday and bowed their heads as the national flag fluttered at half-staff along streets and from buildings.
Pyongyang construction workers took off their yellow hard hats and bowed at the waist as sirens wailed across the city for three minutes.
Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered in the frigid plaza outside, newly transformed into a public park with lawns and pergolas. Geese flew past snow-tinged firs and swans dallied in the partly frozen moat that rings the vast complex in Pyongyang's outskirts.
At a memorial service on Sunday, North Korea's top leadership not only eulogized Kim Jong Il, but also praised his son. Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of North Korea's parliament, called the launch a "shining victory" and an emblem of the promise that lies ahead with Kim Jong Un in power.
The rocket's success also fits neatly into the narrative of Kim Jong Il's death. Even before he died, the father had laid the groundwork for his son to inherit a government focused on science, technology and improving the economy. And his pursuit of nuclear weapons and the policy of putting the military ahead of all other national concerns have also carried into Kim Jong Un's reign.
With Agency Inputs
First Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2012, 13:12