(PYONGYANG, North Korea) — Tens of thousands of mourners turned out in snowy Pyongyang Wednesday to bid farewell to the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
The three-hour long procession began at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where Kim’s body has laid since the announcement of his death on Dec. 19. Kim died of a heart attack at the age of 69 on Dec. 17 while on a train journey, according to North Korean media.
Tens of thousands of military officials in uniforms stood still waiting at the plaza in front of the palace. At 10 a.m., the hearse carrying Kim’s flower-decorated coffin atop made a grand entrance.
Kim’s successor, Kim Jong Un, escorted the hearse on foot with his left hand holding onto the sedan’s side mirror. On the left was top military leader Ri Yong Ho, and just behind the young Kim was his uncle and Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law Jang Sung-Taek. Jang is believed to be the power behind the scenes.
The hearse, followed by dozens of cars and military trucks, drove slowly, passing through major monuments in the capitol. Public displays of mourning continued in the freezing weather, with even old women and young children with reddened cheeks, wailing out loud.
The three-hour long procession ended back at the palace with Kim Jong Un again walking alongside the hearse with a salute. Together with the top officials, his father’s successor, said to be around 27 years old, stood with his head bowed while rifles were fired 21 times in salute.
The official funeral will last two days, after which the late Kim will be laid at Kumsusan Memorial Palace where his father Kim Il Sung has been enshrined since 1994. On Thursday, the nation will hold three minutes of silence for the fallen dictator.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN