Salute to the past and a hint of the future in North Korea

crowds gather before statues of Kim Il'Sung and Kim Jong'Il. Picture: AFP
crowds gather before statues of Kim Il'Sung and Kim Jong'Il. Picture: AFP
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NORTH Korea has unveiled the embalmed body of Kim Jong Il, still in his trademark khaki jumpsuit, on the one year anniversary of his death yesterday – as it seems the reclusive state’s ruling dynasty is set to add a new member.

North Korean state television showed a pudgy Kim Jong-un and his wife paying homage at the national memorial service for Mr Kim’s father. In the footage, Mr Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, was wearing traditional Korean black mourning clothes and looked to be pregnant. However, there has been no official confirmation of the pregnancy.

Kim Jong Il now lies in state a few floors below his own father, national founder Kim Il Sung, in the Kumsusan mausoleum, the cavernous former presidential palace. Kim Jong Il is presented lying beneath a red blanket, a spotlight shining on his face in a room suffused in red.

Wails echoed through the chilly hall yesterday as a group of North Korean women in traditional dress sobbed as they bowed before his body. The hall bearing the glass coffin was opened to select visitors for the first time since his death.

North Korea also unveiled Mr Kim’s yacht and his armoured train carriage, where he is said to have died. Among the personal belongings on show in the mausoleum are the parka, sunglasses and pointy platform shoes he famously wore in the last decades of his life. A MacBook Pro lay open on his desk.

North Koreans paid homage to Mr Kim and basked in the success of last week’s rocket launch that sent a satellite named after him into space.

The launch, condemned internationally as a violation of bans against developing its missile technology, was portrayed not only as a gift to Kim Jong Il but also as proof that his young son, Kim Jong-un, has the strength and vision to lead the country.

The elder Mr Kim died on 17 December last year from a heart attack while travelling on his train. His 20-something son was then pictured leading ranks of uniformed and gray-haired officials through the funeral and mourning rites.

The mood in the capital was more celebratory yesterday, with some of the euphoria carrying over from last week’s rocket launch. The satellite bears one of Kim Jong Il’s nicknames, Kwangmyongsong, or “Lode Star”, a moniker given to him at birth according to official lore.

Cameras were not allowed inside the mausoleum, and state media did not release any images of Kim Jong Il’s body.

And with the anniversary came a hint that Kim Jong-un himself might soon be a father.

His wife, Ri Sol Ju, was seen on state TV with what appeared to be a baby bump as she walked slowly next to her husband at the mausoleum, where they bowed to statues of Mr Kim’s father and grandfather.

North Koreans are reluctant to discuss details of the Kim family that have not been released by the state. But there are rumours about whether the country’s first couple is expecting.

To honour Mr Kim’s father, North Koreans stopped in their tracks at midday and bowed their heads as the national flag fluttered at half-mast along streets and from buildings.

Construction workers took off their yellow hard hats and bowed at the waist as sirens wailed across the city for three minutes.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered in the chilly plaza outside the mausoleum, on the outskirts of the city, newly transformed into a public park with lawns and pergolas.