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5:38am UK, Wednesday December 28, 2011
The funeral of the former ruler of North Korea Kim Jong-il is taking place.
Kim, who led the nation with an iron fist, died of a heart attack December 17 at the age of 69.
After 11 days of mourning, a funeral was set for Wednesday and a memorial service for Thursday.
North Korea’s sole TV station has been showing pictures of sobbing mourners filing past Kim’s begonia-bedecked bier, a military orchestra playing odes to Kim and archive footage of Kim making “on-the-spot” field trips.
The ceremony is expected to last two days and include a 24-gun salute.
Mourning should officially end on Thursday with a nationwide memorial service and three-minute silence at noon.
Trains, ships and other vehicles are expected to sound their horns.
North Korea’s new ruler Kim Jong-Un
In the run-up to the event, pictures were released of a two-day visit by a delegation from neighbouring South Korea.
They had a brief meeting with the North’s next leader, Kim Jong-un, who has rapidly gained prominence since his father’s death.
The South’s group was led by the widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who engineered a “sunshine” engagement policy with the North and held a landmark summit with Kim Jong Il in 2000.
The group also included Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, whose late husband had ties to the North.
North Korea sent delegations to Seoul when the women’s husbands died.
The South Koreans also met with Kim Yong Nam, president of Presidium of North Korea’s parliament, according to footage from the AP news agency in Pyongyang. He often represents the country and is considered a nominal head of state.
The sides agreed to push for the implementation of 2000 and 2007 summit agreements between the countries aimed at expanding economic cooperation, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said briefly.
The lead delegates were the widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who engineered a “sunshine” engagement policy with the North and held a landmark summit with Kim Jong Il in 2000, and Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, whose late husband had ties to the North. North Korea sent delegations to Seoul when the women’s husbands died.
Kim Jong-un he thanked them after they expressed condolences and sympathy over his father’s death. Kim Jong Il died Dec. 17.
Despite frigid winter weather, mourning has continued in the final days before Kim Jong-il’s funeral.
People continued lining up in central Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, where a massive portrait that usually features Kim Il Sung has been replaced by one of Kim Jong-il, to bow before his smiling image and to lay funeral flowers.
Heated buses stood by to give mourners a respite from the cold, and hot tea and water were distributed.