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Kim Jong-Il funeral draws hundreds of thousands of mourners

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans turned out for the miles-long procession and funeral. (Photo: Associated Press)
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Walking behind him was Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law and a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission who is expected to play a crucial role in helping Kim Jong Un take power.

Also escorting the limousine were military chief Ri Yong Ho and People's Armed Forces Minster Kim Yong Chun. Their presence indicates they will be important players as the younger Kim consolidates his leadership. Top Workers' Party officials Choe Thae Bok and Kim Ki Nam and senior military officer Kim Jong Gak also were prominent positions, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.

"It shows they will be core powers in North Korea," said Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor at Korea University in South Korea. "Particularly, Jang Song Thaek and Ri Yong Ho will be key to Kim Jong Un's leadership."

The military presence at the funeral Wednesday also suggests Kim will uphold his father's trademark military-first policy, Yoo said.

After the funeral, the young Kim is expected to cement his power by formally assuming command of the 1.2 million-strong military, and becoming general secretary of the Workers' Party and chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, Yoo said.

Kim Jong Il's two other sons, Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Chol, have not been spotted.

Kim Jong Un made his public debut just last year with a promotion to four-star general and an appointment as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party.

Earlier, state television also replayed images of missiles being fired and the April 2009 long-range rocket launch that earned North Korea strengthened U.N. sanctions. The U.S., South Korea and other nations called it a test for a missile designed to strike the United States; North Korea said the rocket sent a communications satellite into space.

North Korea's officials have pledged their loyalty to Kim Jong Il's son.

In an essay paying homage to Kim Jong Il on Wednesday, Workers' Party mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun said North Korea under his leadership had been "dignified as a country that manufactured and launched artificial satellites and accessed nukes," referring to the country's nuclear program.

"Thanks to these legacies, we do not worry about the destiny of ourselves and posterity at this time of national mourning," the essay said, carried in English by the Korean Central News Agency.

"Supreme leader of our party and people Kim Jong Un takes warm care of the people left by Kim Jong Il. Every moment of Kim Jong Un's life is replete with loving care and solicitude for the people," the essay said.

Wednesday's procession had a stronger military presence than in 1994.

Kim Jong Il, who ushered in a "military first" era when he took power, celebrated major occasions with lavish, meticulously choreographed parades designed to show off the nation's military might, such as the October 2010 display when he introduced his son to the world.

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