North Koreans Mourn Late Leader Kim Jong Ilإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
North Koreans across the country stopped in their tracks at midday Monday to silently honor former ruler Kim Jong Il, whose death one year ago swept his untested 20-something son to power.
Pyongyang construction workers took off their yellow hard hats and bowed at the waist as sirens wailed across the city for three minutes. The son, Kim Jong Un, presided over a solemn ceremony to reopen the sprawling granite mausoleum where his father's embalmed remains will lie in state near those of his grandfather, the nation's founder Kim Il Sung.
Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered in the frigid plaza outside the renovated hall where Kim Jong Il's body was to go on public display later Monday. Lined with snow-tinged firs, the square has been turned into a park at Kim Jong Un's orders and his father's portrait installed on the building's façade alongside that of Kim Il Sung.
The elder Kim died last Dec. 17 from a heart attack while traveling on his train. His death was famously followed by scenes of North Koreans dramatically wailing in the streets of Pyongyang, and of his pudgy young son leading ranks of uniformed and gray-haired officials through a series of funeral and mourning rites.
The mood in the capital was decidedly more upbeat a year later, with some of the euphoria carrying over from last week's successful launch of a rocket carrying a satellite named for one of Kim Jong Il's many titles, Kwangmyongsong, or "Lode Star," a nickname given to him at birth according to the official lore.
Speaking outside the mausoleum, renamed the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the military's top political officer, Choe Ryong Hae, said North Korea should be proud of the satellite, calling it a show of strength to the world.
Much of the rest of the world, however, was swift in condemning the launch, which was seen by the United States and other nations as a thinly disguised cover for testing missile technology that could someday be used for a nuclear warhead.
The test, which potentially violates a United Nations ban on North Korean missile activity, underlined Kim Jong Un's determination to continue carrying out his father's hardline policies even if they draw international condemnation.
Some outside experts worry that Pyongyang's next move will be to press ahead with a nuclear test in the coming weeks, a necessary next step toward building a warhead small enough to be carried by a long-range missile.
Despite inviting further isolation for his impoverished nation and the threat of stiffer sanctions, Kim Jong Un won national prestige and clout by going ahead with the rocket launch.
At a memorial service on Sunday, North Korea's top leadership not only eulogized Kim Jong Il, but also praised his son. Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of North Korea's parliament, called the launch a "shining victory" and an emblem of the promise that lies ahead with Kim Jong Un in power.
The rocket's success also fits neatly into the narrative of Kim Jong Il's death. Even before he died, the father had laid the groundwork for his son to inherit a government focused on science, technology and improving the economy. And his pursuit of nuclear weapons and the policy of putting the military ahead of all other national concerns have also carried into Kim Jong Un's reign.
In a sign of the rocket launch's importance, Kim Jong Un invited the scientists in charge of it to attend the mourning rites in Pyongyang, according to state media.
The reopening of the mausoleum on the first anniversary of the leader's death also follows tradition. Kumsusan, the palace where his father, Kim Il Sung, served as president, was reopened as a mausoleum on the first anniversary of his death in 1994.