PYONGYANG, North Korea — Wailing and clutching at their hearts, tens of thousands of North Koreans lined the snowy streets of Pyongyang on Wednesday as the hearse carrying late leader Kim Jong Il’s wound its way through the capital for a final farewell.
Son and successor Kim Jong Un led the procession, which is part of a two-day state funeral. Top military and party officials, including uncle Jang Song Thaek, were also part of the lead group.
Sobs and wails filled the air along the memorial route, which state media said was about 25 miles long.
At the end of the procession, Kim Jong Un walked along with the limousine with his hand cocked in a salute. He stood head-bowed with top officials as rifles fired 21 times, then saluted again as goose-stepping soldiers carrying flags and rifles marched by.
The funeral procession, which began and ended at Kumsusan Memorial Palace, passed by huge crowds of mourners, most of them standing in the snow with their heads bare. Many screamed, stamped their feet, flailed their arms and wept as soldiers struggled to keep them from spilling onto the road.
NOW THE REAL STORY:
“Take a Look at what Kim Jong IL did to his people and you will
come to the conclusion that the only reason these people were crying was out of
fear. They are happy that this Communist Dictator is dead. The media keeps referring
to this evil dictator has the Dear Leader. The only one that this evil man was
dear to is the Devil.” Why did they not let the media in all of the other years
that this Bastard was living? The Propaganda machines are in full effect. (This Commentary By: Elmer Williams)
(These Facts Are From About.Com By: Kallie Szczepanski)
During the 1980s, according to foreign analysts, Kim Jong-il
was involved in at least two acts of state-sponsored terrorism. The first was a
1983 bombing in Rangoon, Burma, which left 17 South Korean government officials
dead. The second, a 1987 bombing of Korean Airlines flight 858, killed all 115
people on board.
These incidents were an early sign that Kim Jong-il would
take a harder-line approach to international relations than his father had. The
younger Kim also demanded absolute obedience and respect from the people, and
was willing to dole out extreme punishments to any who disobeyed.
The Supreme Leader:
On July 8, 1994, Kim Il-sung died of a heart attack at age
82. He was named “Eternal President,” and laid to rest in the Kumsusan Memorial
Palace in Pyongyang.
As a result of his father’s “eternal” status, Kim Jong-il
was not officially the President of North Korea. Although he was Kim Il-sung’s
chosen successor, the younger Kim may have been an unpopular choice among the
Party faithful. His take-over of the government was a slow and cautious
process. It was several years after Kim Il-sung’s death before foreign
observers were sure that Kim Jong-il truly would become North Korea’s next
As North Korea’s leader, Kim distanced himself even from
North Korea’s traditional allies, Russia and the People’s Republic of China. He
also instituted a “Military-First” policy, devoting the majority of the
country’s resources to the armed forces. Those policies, combined with a cycle
of devastating droughts followed by catastrophic floods, caused widespread
famine throughout the 1990s and early 21st century.
Huge shipments of food aid from traditional foes such as
South Korea, Japan, and the United States arrived too late to save an estimated
200,000 to 3.5 million North Korean famine victims.
In 1998, South Korea’s President Kim Dae-jung instituted a
“Sunshine Policy” toward the North. This was meant to improve relations between
the two Koreas, freeze the North’s nuclear program, and foster economic
cooperation, as a first step toward reunification of the peninsula. The Sunshine
Policy suffered a number of setbacks, with most egregious coming on October 9,
2006 — the day North Korea successfully conducted its first underground nuclear
Kim Jong-il puzzled surrounding powers and the U.S. with his
erratic policies on the nuclear issue and other important matters.
Human Rights Abuses:
Kim Jong-il has also faced international pressure over human
rights abuses. The North Korean government runs a series of “re-education
camps” that hold as many as 50,000 citizens of all ages prisoner for political
“crimes” such as failure to adore the Dear Leader.
In addition, Kim was reviled for the kidnapping of Japanese
and South Korean citizens off of beaches by North Korean submarine crews for
use as intelligence community language and culture trainers. Such kidnappings
have all but ceased today, but many of South Korea’s beaches still sport rolls
of concertina wire just above the high-tide line.
Quirks and Spending Habits:
Kim Jong-il was known for his eccentric and extravagant
tastes. He imports $700,000 worth of Hennessy cognac per year, ate lobster,
caviar, and the finest sushi every day, and loved Hollywood movies such as
“Rambo” and the “Friday the 13th” series. Kim also enjoyed racing cars, and had
a fleet of Mercedes Benz S500 luxury sedans. Reportedly, the dictator also
loved roasted donkey meat.
Kim Jong Il was a big fan of guitar legend Eric Clapton, and
once invited the musician to play in Pyongyang. Clapton did not accept the
Personal Life and the “Cult of Personality”:
Kim was extremely secretive about his personal life. It is
believed that he married once, had one child from this marriage, and that he
also had three mistresses and two other children.
Kim’s oldest son, Kim Jong-nam, was disgraced by a 2001
arrest in Tokyo for traveling with a forged passport. His position as the
successor to his father was ruined by this incident, although reports suggested
that he was trying to get back into Kim Jong-il’s good graces when the Dear
Leader passed away. The third son, Kim Jong-un, was groomed instead to succeed
Kim Jong-il, whose health began to decline seriously after 2005.
Like any good dictator, Kim Jong-il built an elaborate cult
of personality. Pictures of him and his late father adorned all public
buildings, and criticism of the Kims is punishable by imprisonment in the
concentration camps. Both men’s birthdays are important national holidays. All
media sources are controlled by the State, of course, so praise for the “Dear
Leader” was broadcast constantly over the radio and in newspapers.
Some outside observers believe that this obedience and
adulation arises from actual love and respect either for Kim Jong-il, or for
the memory of his father. Most, however, believe that the citizens of North
Korea are motivated more by fear than by hero worship.
Kim Jong-il’s Death:
Kim Jong-il died during a train trip on December 17, 2011.
This was one of his series of internal trips in order to supervise and advise
the industrial and agricultural producers of North Korea. According to official
news reports, he died of a heart attack due to overwork.
Immediately after his death, his third son Kim Jong-un was
named as the “Great Successor” to his father. It remains to be seen
whether the new leader will be able to rule with the same iron will as his
father and grandfather. In any case, uncertainty in North Korea means
instability in East Asia – and with nuclear weapons in the picture, that is a
frightening thought indeed.