Pyongyang: North Korea vowed to unite behind leader Kim Jong Un during carefully staged events on Tuesday to mark the second anniversary of his father`s death, in an attempt to show it has returned to business as usual after the purge and execution of his once-powerful uncle last week.
Kim sat silently as a stadium full of military and party officials paid homage to his father, Kim Jong Il, at the day`s main event.
He was flanked by Kim Yong Nam, the ceremonial head of state, and Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, representing the military. Conspicuously absent was Jang Song Thaek, who was executed after being accused of corruption and trying to overthrow the government.
Jang was widely seen as the second-most powerful man in North Korea before his fall. The regime`s decision to execute and publicly vilify him charges of everything from alleged drug abuse to womanising to trying to create his own power base were trumpeted daily in the state media heightened questions over the stability of Kim`s two-year-old leadership and shattered the North`s carefully cultivated illusion of total unity.
But with Jang now out of the picture he is already being deleted from state media archives North Korea`s official message today was back to its usual calls for "single-minded unity" behind Kim`s leadership.
As top officials sat with Kim on a wide stage at the Pyongyang Indoor Gymnasium for today`s event with a huge portrait of Kim Jong Il behind them, heads bowed as the traditional North Korean funeral dirge played. At several points during the speeches, all rose to applaud the "immortal and glorious exploits" of the late leader. Kim Jong Un, wearing a gray Mao suit, did not speak at the ceremony.
"Once more, our people`s army is firmly determined to guarantee the victory of our great general`s revolutionary cause," Choe said, adding that the military would "hold high the flag of the part" and follow "the ever-victorious leadership of our supreme commander."
Three minutes of silence were observed at the start of the ceremony.
Jang`s wife, Kim Kyong Hui, who is Kim Jong Un`s aunt, did not appear at today`s memorial. But she was noted by state media over the weekend in connection with another funeral of a top official, a sign that she has survived Jang`s removal.
Contradicting past assertions of unity and strength, North Korea has acknowledged its leadership had indeed been roiled by the challenge by Kim`s mentor and uncle after the 2011 death of Kim`s father. The acknowledgement of dissension and dangerous instability in the government has raised fears of what`s ahead as Kim tries to revive a moribund economy while maintaining and advancing development of the country`s nuclear arsenal.