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.