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10 December 2023

North Korea says Kim's body to lie in state


North Korea announced Thursday that the body of Kim Jong-Il will lie in state in perpetuity in a Pyongyang palace and memorial towers will be built nationwide, as part of plans to honour the late leader.

Kim died on December 17 of a heart attack at age 69 after 17 years in charge of the impoverished but nuclear-armed nation. His son Kim Jong-Un has taken over the leadership.

The ruling communist party, describing the late Kim as its "eternal leader", announced that his body would lie in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.

Kim's corpse was on display at the palace before an elaborate funeral on December 28. The embalmed body of his father, founding president Kim Il-Sung, is on view to favoured visitors at the building.

The party, in a report carried by the official news agency, announced plans for a statue to Kim Jong-Il. It also said smiling portraits "and towers to his immortality" would be built nationwide.

His birthday on February 16, "the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation", would be named the Day of the Shining Star, according to the decision made by the political bureau of the party's central committee.

The late Kims were the subject of a massive personality cult that bestowed near-godlike status on them. Kim Il-Sung, whose birthday on April 15 is known as the Day of the Sun, was declared eternal president after his death in 1994.

The North is now burnishing the image of Jong-Un, who is aged in his late 20s.

It has declared him "supreme leader of party, army and people" and formally appointed him as military chief. Troops held a rally Monday outside the memorial palace to pledge loyalty to the new leader.

Paik Hak-Soon, of Seoul's Sejong Institute think-tank, said Thursday's announcement indicated that Kim Jong-Il's body would be embalmed and put on display, just like his father.

"It shows the absolute authority of the past leaders and is also aimed at boosting Jong-Un's status as their direct descendant," he told AFP.

Paik said the declaration of February 16 as the nation's greatest holiday had the same purpose -- bolstering Jong-Un's status as direct descendant and successor.

The analyst said the designation of the late Kim as "eternal leader of the party and the revolution" referred to the country's overall socialist revolution, not the specific party institution, adding Jong-Un would eventually take over as party chief.

The announcement gave few details on what kind of statue would commemorate Kim Jong-Il.

A towering bronze statue of Kim Il-Sung, unveiled in 1972 to mark his 60th birthday, is customarily the first stop for foreign visitors to Pyongyang. Tour groups or individuals are expected to lay flowers at its feet.