SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Musicians in military garb played a mournful tune on state television in North Korea on Wednesday, as foreign media reported that the isolated country had began a funeral for late leader Kim Jong Il.
Russia’s Itar-Tass said in a short report that the ceremony began in the North’s capital, with the first phase taking place at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where Kim’s body lies in state.
The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said earlier Wednesday that a hearse carrying Kim’s body would be driven through the streets of Pyongyang.
Kim, who had led the nation with an iron fist following his father Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, died of a heart attack Dec. 17 at age 69, according to state media. He is to be succeeded by his young son Kim Jong Un, already being hailed by state media as the “supreme leader” of the party, state and army.
For 11 days since Kim’s death was announced, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have made around-the-clock visits in freezing temperatures to bow and lay flowers at massive portraits of the late leader in a theatrical show of grief similar to the one for his father in 1994.
Heavy snow was falling in Pyongyang on Wednesday, foreign diplomats reached by email in the capital said Wednesday.
North Korean state media provided no other details and the nation’s sole TV station was not showing the funeral live.
However, foreign dignitaries were asked to gather at a sports stadium by late Wednesday morning to be taken to the Kumsusan Memorial Palace for a funeral procession through Pyongyang.
In 1994, Kim Il Sung’s funeral procession — led by a massive portrait of the late president and followed by his flag-draped coffin on top of a hearse — lasted several hours as it crawled from the Kumsusan palace to central Kim Il Sung Square, circled the plaza twice, and then returned to the palace.
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