News / Asia

In North Korea, Millions Mourn Death of 'Dear Leader'

Pyongyang citizens grieve as they visit a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on display in the plaza of the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, December 21, 2011.
Pyongyang citizens grieve as they visit a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on display in the plaza of the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, December 21, 2011.

North Korea appeared calm Wednesday as the nation mourned the death of Kim Jong Il, and continued the transition of leadership to his son, Kim Jong Un.

North Korean state media say millions of people turned out to pay their respects at statues and portraits of the late "Dear Leader."

In Beijing, Chinese leaders, including Premier Wen Jiabo, visited the North Korean embassy on Wednesday to offer their condolences.

Chinese President Hu Jintao made a similar visit a day earlier, in what is seen as Beijing's effort to reassure Pyongyang of its continuing support.

In a further endorsement Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Beijing expects the North Korean people to rally around their new leader.

Special Report - North Korea: Looking Inside

Meanwhile, along the heavily militarized Korean border, South Korean activists and defectors launched balloons containing tens of thousands of propaganda leaflets opposing the hereditary succession of leadership in the north.

North Korean defector Park Sang Hak said North Koreans should try and liberate themselves during this period of transition.

"We gathered here to send our messages to the 20 million North Korean people who are taking this crucial opportunity to be freed from the dictatorship. The message is the three-generation succession of power is not acceptable and North Korean people should stop it with their own will,'' Park said.

Some of the leaflets had an image of Kim next to pictures of former dictators Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi.

North Korean state media are urging citizens to rally around Kim Jong Un, referring to the young leader as the "great successor" and the "pillar of our people."

Official media reported early Monday that Kim Jong Il, 69, died of a heart attack Saturday while traveling by train on one of his "field guidance" tours. The agency attributed his death to "physical and mental overwork."  

The body of the senior Kim is lying in state in a glass encasement near the embalmed body of his father, North Korean founding leader Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994.

Kim Jong Il's funeral will be held on December 28, near the end of a period of national mourning.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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