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North Korea's next leader is at head of procession at funeral of father Kim Jong Il
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) ' North Korea carried out a meticulously choreographed funeral for late leader Kim Jong Il on Wednesday and affirmed that the country was now in the "warm care" of his young son, extending the Kim family's hold on power to a third generation.
Footage broadcast on North Korea's state television showed Kim's youngest son and successor Kim Jong Un walking next to his father's hearse as it made its way slowly through cold, snowy Pyongyang. Dressed in a dark overcoat, he bowed his head slightly against the snow, and raised his right arm in salute.
Walking behind 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.
Tens of thousands of mourners stood in heavy snow as they passed by. Soldiers stood in lines with their heads bowed.
Kim Jong Il, who led the nation with an iron fist following his father Kim Il Sung's death in 1994, died of a heart attack Dec. 17 at age 69, according to state media. Kim Jong Un is already being hailed as the "supreme leader" of the party, state and army.
A private ceremony is believed to have been held earlier Wednesday in the inner sanctum of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace with Kim Jong Un and top military and party officials.
Foreign dignitaries in the city had been asked to gather at a sports stadium shortly before noon to be taken to Kumsusan to see the hearse pass at the start of the funeral procession through Pyongyang, according to a diplomat who asked that her name not be used due to the sensitivity of the details.
The young Kim 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.
But in the days since his father's death, the campaign to install him as the next leader has been swift, with state media bestowing him with new titles, including "great successor," ''supreme leader" and "sagacious leader."
Associated Press Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee and writer Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report. Follow Jean H. Lee at twitter.com/newsjean.