A two-day memorial for former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il began on Wednesday with the new leader, his son Kim Jong-un walking alongside the hearse carrying the late dictator.
Ahead of the memorial, news agencies and expert analysts made predictions on what the late ruler’s funeral will be like, with many agreeing that it will be modeled after his father Kim Il-sung’s own memorial, which took place in 1994.
From the tens and thousands of people unreservedly weeping, whether out of authentic grief or not, to choreographed parades displaying the country’s military power, Wednesday’s ceremony proved to be the same.
And like previously, while loyal citizens cried out for their deceased leader, many were expected to outstretch their arms to the mercies of the new successor, Kim Jong-un.
Han Park, a professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, told CNN earlier, “The system will try to make sure that Kim Jong-un, this young man, is a legitimate leader, so probably he will be spotlighted in the funeral procession.”
The memorial is viewed as giving North Korean leaders the chance to show the public that the process of succession is going smoothly.
Professor T.J. Pempel at the University of California, Berkeley also affirmed Kim Jong-un’s role in the memorial to The Christian Post.
Pempel confirmed that it would be “big, military-based, and [would] showcase Kim Jong-un.”
Still, Park noted that the two-day memorial would not outdo that of Kim Il-sung’s, immortalized as the “Great Leader” by North Koreans.
“Kim Jong-il is no Kim Il-sung,” the director of the Globis Center for the Study of Global Issues commented. “Kim Il-sung was much more charismatic, and his death was much more unexpected.”
Everyone believed that Kim Il-sung was in excellent health before he passed away from a heart attack at 83, unlike Kim Jong-il, whose poor health was known throughout the world.
“In North Korea, no one actually anticipated or suspected the coming of [Kim Il-sung’s] death ... Kim Jong-il, his health was failing. Everyone knew that.”
Additionally, while Kim Jong-il’s glass casket had been made ready upon his passing, it took developers several days to prepare for Kim Il-sung’s own funeral arrangements.
“Basically, we are seeing a man who planned his own funeral,” John Park, research fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, added to CNN.
Not only did he plan his own funeral, but his official biography also noted that he had intricately planned his father’s own funeral as well, The Associated Press reported.
The biography credited Kim Jong-il for creating a permanent shrine for his father’s body, which was embalmed and placed in an assembly hall where his father worked, and also replacing the somber image of the deceased Kim Il-sung with a new smiling one.
Like his father, he too would also leave behind a smiling image of himself, shown through portraits erected at mourning stations throughout the nation.
The Korean Central News Agency revealed that all people in the republic would observe three minutes of silence on Thursday, which would be followed by the sounds of whistles and sirens blowing from locomotives and ships in the country.
They stated of their late leader, “Kim Jong-il displayed superhuman strength combating mental and physical strain and illness to bring the people’s desire into a reality.”
The communist North Korean government forces its citizens to adhere to a personality cult revolving around worshipping Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung. While North Korean state television shows citizens mourning dramatically for the late leader, refugees have revealed that they are likely feigning sadness.
“Times have been hard during Kim Jong-il’s reign. People have woke up and are much more aware of the reality of the country and the leadership now. People will outwardly be showing sadness but inwardly they will feel very differently,” said Shin Jong-wook, whose name was changed for security purposes, according to Liberty in North Korea. “The people fear that anything but the required show of sadness could get them killed.”