North Korea today declared Kim Jong Un the “supreme leader” at a huge public memorial for his father Kim Jong Il.
The son, called North Korea’s “Great Successor”, stood with his head bowed in a dark overcoat on a balcony at the Grand People’s Study House overlooking Kim Il Sung Square and watched emotionless as the memorial pass by.
The public display for Kim Jong Un at his father’s memorial indicates that government and military officials have unified around him in the wake of Kim Jong Il’s death Dec. 17, 2011.
As he stood overlooking all the people gathered there in Pyongyang’s main square, Kim Jong Un was flanked by military officials, including Kim Jong Il’s younger sister, Kim Kyong Hui, and her husband Jang Song Thaek, who are expected to serve as advisors of their younger relative..
There are questions outside North Korea about whether he is equipped to lead a nation engaged in long-stalled negotiations over its nuclear program and grappling with decades of economic hardship and chronic food shortages, given Kim Jong Un’s inexperience and age — he is in his late 20s. “With that said he is not an uneducated man”, said Howard Adams of Charlotte, N.C. “Kim is said to have studied computer science privately in North Korea.We know he obtained at least two degrees, one in physics at Kim Il Sung University and another at the Kim Il Sung Military Academy.
His support among North Korea’s elite and influential leaders was all too clear at the memorial service, which was attended by hundreds of thousands of people filling Kim Il Sung Square and other plazas in central Pyongyang.
“The fact that he completely resolved the succession matter is Great Comrade Kim Jong Il’s most noble accomplishment,” Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, told the massive audience at the square.
“Respected Comrade Kim Jong Un is our party, military and country’s supreme leader who inherits great comrade Kim Jong Il’s ideology, leadership, character, virtues, grit and courage,” said Kim, considered North Korea’s ceremonial head of state.
Kim Jong-un, also known as Kim Jong-eun formerly Kim Jong-woon or Kim Jung-woon (born 8 January 1983 or 1984) is now the designated leader of North Korea. “No doubt about it now”, said Mark Trumble of Charlotte, N.C. a political analyst for Charlotte’s web alternative news agency. “He is the third and youngest son of his deceased predecessor Kim Jong-il and his consort Ko Young-hee”, Trumble said.
From late 2010, Kim Jong-un was viewed as heir apparent to the leadership of the nation, and following his father’s death, he was announced as the “Great Successor” by North Korean state television. He was declared Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army on 24 December 2011,and at Kim Jong-il’s memorial service, North Korean president Kim Yong-nam declared that “Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un is our party, military and country’s supreme leader who inherits great comrade Kim Jong-il’s ideology, leadership, character, virtues, grit and courage”…
His accession is not expected to become official, however, until top party, parliamentary and government officials meet to confirm his appointment as leader of the Korean People’s Army, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission…
The memorial “was an event to publicly confirm and solidify” Kim Jong Un’s status, said Jeung Young-tae, an analyst with the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, South Korea.
Life in the North Korean capital came to a virtual halt during the days of silence as mourners dressed in thick, dark colored jackets blanketed the plaza from the Grand People’s Study House to the Taedong River for the second day of funeral ceremonies for the late leader.
A giant red placard hanging on the front of a building facing Kim Il Sung Square urged the country to rally around Kim Jong Un, according to one Associated press report.
Kim Jong Il, who led his people for 17 years, died of an apparent heart attack Dec. 17 at age 69, according to state media. Jong Il inherited power from his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, who died of a heart attack as well in 1994, in what was the communist world’s first hereditary succession.
Attention turned to Kim Jong Un after he was revealed last year as his father’s choice among three known sons to carry the Kim dynasty into a third generation.
The process to groom him was rushed compared to the 20 years Kim Jong Il had to prepare to take over from his father, and relied heavily on the Kim family bloodline and legacy as guerrilla fighters and the nation’s founders.
Kim Il Sung is North Korea’s first and only president; he retains the title “Eternal President” even after his death.
Kim Jong Il held three main positions are as follows: chairman of the National Defense Commission, general secretary of the Workers’ Party and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army. The last being the most important perhaps.
Although according to the constitution, his position as chairman of the National Defense Commission gives him the title of “supreme leader” of North Korea.
Kim Jong Un was made a four-star general last year in a semi private ceremony and appointed a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party. He is a Daejang in the Korean People’s Army, a military rank equivalent to that of a top ranking General in the American Army.
Since his father’s death, state media have bestowed on him a series of new titles signaling that his succession campaign was being implemented and accepted: Supreme Leader , Sagacious Leader and Leader of the People were all titles bestowed on him in various media reports.
Last weekend, the Workers’ Party newspaper, “Rodong Sinmun”, called on the younger Kim to step into his father’s role as “supreme commander of the armed forces.”
A move that had many western intelligence analysts wondering if he was officially in charge or just a puppet under the control of people behind the scenes. Speculation concerning this particular aspect of his succession was the cause of many memos and papers being written to political and military leaders around the world.
Kim is expected to “formally assume command of the Workers’ Party and become chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission”, said Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor at Korea University in South Korea, who went on to speculate about the younger Kim’s qualifications although he never met him personally.
He may be “officially named supreme commander of the military ahead of Jan. 8, which is believed to be his birthday”, said Cheong Seong-chang at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, a self proclaimed expert on North Korea, who never met the new leader.
The aftermath of Kim Jong Il’s death has been watched closely for clues about who in the military and Workers’ Party will form Kim’s inner circle of trusted aides and advisors during the sensitive transition to leadership in North Korea.
Intelligence agencies, from every major capitol in the world have been watching and listening closely to media reports for any clues on this.
In South Korean leaders after the death of Kim Jong Il placed the military on “high alert”, and the US forces stationed there also went on alert. Quitely many people at CIA and the Pentagon worried that the situation could erupt in violence if a coup broke out or a power struggle ensued in North Korea.
Following right behind Kim during a Wednesday funeral procession through Pyongyang streets with Kim Jong Il’s hearse was his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who is a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission and has family ties to the military. Some wondered if he would come out in support for his young relative or cease contol of the country for himself.
For Thursday’s memorial, North Koreans literally jammed packed the main square as well as the plaza in front of a Workers’ Party monument (of a hammer, sickle and writing brush).
Flags were flown at half-staff fluttered in the wind on the cold winter’s day, and people were bundled up in parkas and coats.
State TV showed a delegation of (un-named) foreigners attending the memorial. Analysts are scrambling to figure out who some of these people are…
They bowed their heads as eight artillery guns fired salvos; military officers removed their hats while the booms resonated across Kim Il Sung Square.
Some people quitely wept tears, others just stood there.
The streets went still again for a three-minute period of silence.
Heads bowed, eyes closed workers paused next to a green train and bystanders stopped where they were, some standing next to their bicycles motionless, as trains and boats sirens blew their horns, according to official state media reports.
It was by all accounts a somber event and a continuation of the funeral and period of mourning established for the later leader…