N Korea vows to support new leader
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Last Updated: Friday, December 23, 2011, 17:09
Pyongyang: Mourning centers have been set up in towns and villages across North Korea in a stepped-up show of public grief on Friday over the death of leader Kim Jong Il, but attention and allegiances were already clearly shifting to his young son.

Scenes of dramatic mass mourning have been a daily occurrence in Pyongyang since Kim's death was announced on Monday. Thousands of North Koreans including heir Kim Jong Un and other top officials have poured into a funeral palace in the capital to view his body or bow before his portrait.

By today, mourning stations had also been established in provincial, city and county seats, and at institutions and enterprises across the country.

"The sorrow at the loss of our leader is tremendous. But we would not stay in grief only," Sok Kil Nam, a 24-year-old worker at the Chollima Steel Complex in the city of Nampho, told news agency.

He added: "As long as we have great comrade Kim Jong Un, the cause of the respected General Kim Jong Il will go on, so we continue working, not leaving our work sites."

North Korea's official media have been quick to feature the younger Kim in coverage of the mourning a strong indication that the country's leadership is behind installing the 20-something son as Kim Jong Il's successor and the public face of the nation.

Officials in Seoul and Washington, after initial jitters over possible instability, are calling the transition so far a smooth one. There have been no outward signs of unrest on the streets or unusual troop movements along the borders.

"We continue to monitor and assess the situation and continue normal operations for stability and security in the region," said Cmdr. Ron Steiner, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet, which is based in Japan.

The North, however, remains highly sensitive to what it sees as outside threats.

One North Korean media outlet known for being particularly strident in its commentary slammed South Korea for putting its military on a heightened alert level after Kim's death, calling it an "insult" that derides the dignity of a nation in mourning.

The government-run website, Uriminzokkiri, also said the fate of the relations between the two Koreas depends on how the South deals with requests from its civilians to visit the North to pay respects to Kim.

"We are watching the attitude of the South Korean government," it said.

It said Pyongyang will accept anyone from South Korea hoping to pay respects to Kim Jong Il and that routes by both air and land will be opened. North Korea has said through its other media that foreign delegations would not be allowed in to attend the official funeral for Kim on December 28-29.


First Published: Friday, December 23, 2011, 13:17

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