North Korea Thursday burnished the image of its past and present leaders amid wintry scenes of mass grief, as Washington said it wants to work with the new regime when the mourning period ends next week.
Please come back to the people you loved so much,” the state news agency quoted one army officer saying as he viewed the bier of late leader Kim Jong-Il, lying in state under a glass coffin.
Official media has reported mass mourning, said to involve five million people in Pyongyang alone, since Kim’s death was announced Monday.
Even nature is heartbroken, according to the news agency, which in its characteristic style reported freak weather phenomena at his mystical birthplace and a Manchurian crane adopting a posture of grief.
Kim Jong-Il and his father Kim Il-Sung, who ruled the communist nation with an iron fist from its creation in 1948, were the subject of an extravagant personality cult.
The latest dynastic ruler, aged in his late 20s, is also being showered with praise but remains a figure of mystery to the outside world. He was pictured Wednesday weeping at his father’s coffin.
Elsewhere North Korean media has shown mourners braving freezing conditions to pay their respects to Kim senior, weeping in a park blanketed with snow as they laid flowers for the leader who presided over a 1990s famine.
State media has begun referring to the son as “Respected” or “Great” Comrade Kim Jong-Un as they called for unity around the new leadership. The junior Kim has also been described as “Great Successor” to his late father.
Analysts expect little political upheaval following the death — at least for now — since regime members have an interest in preserving the status quo.
The United States, which fought on the South’s side in the 1950-53 Korean War, said it wants to work with the new regime when a 13-day mourning period ends next Thursday.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was cautious about the future of diplomacy, but said Washington hoped in the future to resume dialogue over possible US food aid.
“Obviously, we want to continue working on these issues,” Nuland told reporters, referring to the discussions.
US and North Korean officials held talks last week in Beijing about the practicalities of food aid. Pyongyang has been pressing for months for help to address what foreign aid groups say is severe hunger.
The State Department had been expected to make decisions starting Monday. But instead its meetings were dominated by the bombshell news of Kim’s death and his replacement by his untested son.
South Korea put its military on alert Monday but the Pentagon said Wednesday that no unusual North Korean military movements had been observed across the tense border.