North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Memorial Rally Ends KJI Mourning Period

Kim Jong Un (2nd L) attends a 25 March national memorial rally in Pyongyang ending the country's 100-day mourning period for deceased supreme leader Kim Jong Il. Seen with him are Chief of the KPA General Staff VMar Ri Yong Ho (L), SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (3rd L), his aunt and member of the Political Bureau Kim Kyong Hui (2nd R) and Political Bureau member Jon Pyong Ho (R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

People attend the memorial service to mark the 100th day since the death of Kim Jong Il, late top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on March 25, 2012. (Xinhua/Zhang Li)

DPRK state media reported on Sunday (25 March) that the 100-day mourning period for Kim Jong Il ended.  The country’s central leadership marked the occasion with two events.  Early on Sunday, Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) led a group of DPRK elites in paying their respects at Ku’msusan Memorial Palace where his grandfather, country founder and late DPRK President Kim Il Sung lies in state and where KJI will eventually lie in repose.  Later the same day, KJU and other DPRK leaders attended a national memorial rally for KJI as Kim Il Sung Square.

ITAR-TASS reports:

North Korean premier Choe Yong Rim, speaking on Sunday at a mass rally in the capital’s central square on the occasion of the 100 days since the death of the head of state, pointed to great services of Kim Jong-Il to the Korean nation.

He noted that the deceased leader turned North Korea “into a militarily strong country”, made an important contribution to the cause of reunification of the two parts of the Korean Peninsula. Besides, the premier continued, “Kim Jong-Il brilliantly settled the question on continuity of power”.

Choe also pointed to important measures, taken by the leader’s young son Kim Jong-Un, to immortalize the memory of his father. For instance, at the initiative of the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il was awarded the title of generalissimo, and the Kumsusan Memorial Palace was renamed into the “Palace of Sun”.

In this connection, the prime minister called for standing closer behind Kim Jong-Un whose leadership “will be a guarantee for successful implementation of the DPRK’s revolutionary course”.

Then, the rally was addressed by Minister of People’s Armed Forces and Vice-Marshal Kim Yong-Chun. According to the vice-marshal, thanks to Kim Jong-Il’s efforts, North Korea “has turned into an invincible country which nobody dares to attack”.

Now, the minister went on to say, the state is headed by Kim Jong-Un, inspecting military units and “demonstrating firm determination to pursue further the songun policy (militarily oriented policy of North Korea)”. The vice-marshal noted that such trips “instill faith in victory into our servicemen”.

“The people and the army will defend with all efforts the central committee of the Korean Workers Party headed by Kim Jong-Un,” the minister stressed. He blasted the South Korean authorities for the provocative policy of confrontation against fellow countrymen in the North.

Following the rally in the central square of Pyongyang where a large portrait of Kim Jong-Il was exhibited and where gun salvoes thundered, North Korean people honoured the memory of the passed leader with three-minute silence exactly at 12.00 local time. All locomotives and ships as well as cars hooted simultaneously.

The rally was attended by all the country’s leadership, including Kim Jong-Un, heads and representatives of foreign diplomatic missions, officers of international humanitarian organizations, operating here, and foreign reporters.

Rallies and meetings, dedicated to Kim Jong-Il who headed North Korea over the past 17 years, took place in all districts of the country. The head of state passed away on last December 17 of a heart attack, caused by extreme overwork.

Members of the DPRK central leadership attending a national memorial rally in Pyongyang on 25 March 2012. Seen in attendance in this image (L-R) are: Jang Song Taek; Gen. O Kuk Ryol; Kim Ki Nam; VMar Ri Yong Mu; VMar Kim Yong Chun; VMar Ri Yong Ho; Kim Jong Un; Kim Yong Nam; Choe Yong Rim (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong Un (2nd R) bows during a 25 March national memorial rally held to end the 100-days of mourning for his father, Kim Jong Il. In this image are: NDC Vice Chairman, VMar Ri Yong Mu (L); NDC Vice Chairman and Minister of the People's Armed Forces, VMar Kim Yong Chun (2nd L); Chief of the KPA General Staff, VMar Ri Yong Ho; and, SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong-Un (C), top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), attends the memorial service to mark the 100th day since the death of Kim Jong Il, late top leader of DPRK, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on March 25, 2012. (Xinhua/Zhang Li)

NHK reports:

North Korea held a large ceremony on Sunday to mark the 100th day after the death of former leader Kim Jong Il.

Many military personnel gathered at a square in Pyongyang, the capital, where a huge portrait of the former leader was placed.

Kim’s son and the country’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, appeared on a podium with top officials of the Workers’ Party and military and they together observed a moment of silence.

The prayer was followed by a speech by Premier Choe Yong Rim, in which he praised the former leader and stressed that Kim Jong Un will carry on his achievements.

Choe also condemned South Korea’s government of President Lee Myung-bak.

Sunday’s ceremony is seen as North Korea’s attempt to show at home and abroad that the period of mourning for the former leader has ended. It is also apparently designed to arouse loyalty from military personnel.

North Korea plans to hold a series of political events next month to mark the centenary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung. They include a meeting of representatives of the Workers’ Party and a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s parliament.

North Korea also plans to launch a rocket carrying a satellite. The plan has drawn criticism from Japan, the United States, South Korea, and other countries as a violation of UN resolutions as the launch will involve long-range ballistic missile technology.

Kim Jong Un (C) and members of the central leadership prepare to bow in front of an image of Kim Jong Il mounted on marble (below) at Ku'msusan Memorial Palace, as the DPRK ended its 100-day mourning period. (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Members of the central leadership bow to an image of Kim Jong Il. Standing behind Kim Jong Un are: his aunt Kim Kyong Hui (1st row, L) DPRK Premier Choe Yong Rim (1st row, 2nd L) DPRK Vice Premier Kang Sok Ju (2nd row, 3rd R), Chief of the KPA General Staff VMar Ri Yong Ho (1st row, 2nd R) and NDC Vice Chairman and Minister of the People's Armed Forces Kim Yong Chun (1st row, R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Members of the central leadership bow to an image of Kim Jong Il. Standing behind Kim Jong Un are: SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (L), NDC Vice Chairman Gen. O Kuk Ryol (3rd R), NDC Vice Chairman and Kim Jong Un's uncle Jang Song Taek (2nd R) and NDC Member and Senior Vice Director of the KPA General Political Department, VMar Kim Jong Gak (R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Meanwhile, northwest of Pyongyang, preparations for the April 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 are underway.  Yonhap reports:

North Korea has brought the main body of a long-range rocket to a launch site in the northwestern part of the impoverished, nuclear-armed communist state, a local report said Sunday.

A train took the main body to the launch facility in Dongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, Saturday, Fuji Television said citing informed sources.

North Korea has said it will launch the rocket to put an observation satellite into orbit between April 12 and 16 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founding father Kim Il-sung, which falls on April 15.

Kim Il-sung is the father of Kim Jong-il, the late North Korean leader who died of heart attack in December. Kim Jong-il’s son, Jong-un, has taken over in the unprecedented third-generation power transition in any communist state.

South Korea and the United States have called on the North to refrain from the planned rocket launch, seeing it as a disguised ballistic missile test.

The North’s move comes as U.S. President Barack Obama and scores of other global leaders are flocking to Seoul to attend the second Nuclear Security Summit.

Washington has said it will not provide food aid to Pyongyang if the North proceeds with the rocket launch, although the U.S. agreed in February to ship 240,000 tons of food to the impoverished North in return for the North’s moratorium on missile and nuclear tests and freeze of uranium enrichment.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions imposed in 2009 after Pyongyang’s nuclear and long-range rocket tests.

A view of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongch'ang-ri, North P'yo'ngan Province, taken on 20 March 2012 (Photo: Yonhap)

RT reports on the preparations of the launch, as well as reactions and interactions in Seoul where the Nuclear Security Summit will open on Monday (26 March):

North Korean military specialists have delivered parts of a ballistic missile to the country’s northwestern launch pad, South Korean military informed. The launch is at the center of international concern as it is believed to have a military motive.

­Pyongyang is preparing to mark the centennial of North Korea founder, “farther of nation” Kim Il-sun in April with Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite space launch. The country is firmly intended to conduct a launch around April 15 according to North Korea’s Foreign Ministry. North Korea insists that the launch is purely civilian and that it has a sovereign right to pursue space exploration.

Washington believes North Korea’s rocket launches are a cover to test a nuclear warhead delivery vehicle. If the test is successful, Pyongyang’s long-range rocket will be capable of targeting Alaska and beyond.

North Korea’s upcoming rocket launch is going to be aimed south into a triangle area “roughly between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines”, a senior US official has warned.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Saturday that Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, shared this information with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on North Korean leaders to abstain from carrying out the launch. He recalled UN Resolution 1874, which prohibits North Korea from developing and testing long-range missiles and having an active nuclear weapons program. This resolution was adopted in 2009 after a North Korean space launch, and the new firing is being considered a violation of the UN-adopted resolution.

The UN secretary-general met South Korean leader Lee Myung-bak in Seoul and they called the missile test a “provocation against the international community.”

The North Korean launch is expected to dominate sideline discussions of leaders from nearly 60 countries at the nuclear security summit in Seoul.

North Korean neighbor Japan condemns the test and announced it is going to shot the rocket down using three AEGIS warships should it threaten the country.

The US, France, Russia and other countries condemned North Korea’s plans.

American President Barack Obama has visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Sunday. He observed the movements of North Korean troops on the other side being behind armored glass just 100 meters from the 38th parallel that divides the two countries.

President Obama warned Pyongyang would find itself in even deeper isolation from the international community if the long-range rocket launch takes place.

“North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations,” Obama said during a news conference in Seoul. “Bad behavior will not be rewarded,” Obama added.

North Korea has been consistently insisting on the peaceful nature of its space program. But since the country’s population continues to live in desperate need, it is hard to explain why a country dependent on foreign humanitarian aid needs multi-stage rockets capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

In response to questions from journalists, the two leaders said it was hard to make an assessment of North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, who came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in December.Mr Obama said it was “not clear exactly who is calling the shots” in North Korea and what their long-term objectives were, while Mr Lee said the planned rocket launch was a “disappointment”.

The BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Seoul says there had been hopes that the US aid deal and a new, young leader were indications the crisis could be moving towards resolution, but that with the announcement of the missile test, those hopes have gone.

The launch is scheduled for 12-16 April, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country late Great Leader Kim Il-sung.

South Korean defence officials say the main body of the rocket has now been moved to the launch site in preparation.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Obama visited some of the US personnel based at the the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas.

The US has some 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea under a post-Korean War security alliance.

Mr Obama told the soldiers they were defending “freedom’s frontier” and thanked them for helping to “create the space and the opportunity for freedom and prosperity”.

Mr Lee is hosting more than 50 countries for a two-day summit on nuclear security in Seoul starting on Monday.

The summit’s main focus will be preventing criminal or militant groups from acquiring nuclear weapons – North Korea is not officially on the agenda but is expected to feature in talks on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, North Koreans have been marking the end of 100 days of official mourning for Kim Jong-il. Tens of thousands of people gathered in Pyongyang to pay tribute to the leader, who died of a heart attack in December.

The Associated Press reports:

The president’s three-day trip here amounts to a reminder of the international struggles in his lap in the midst of a re-election year driven more by economic woes. He came to solidify pressure on North Korea, seek help with crises in Syria and Iran and advance a global effort he spearheaded to keep nuclear material from getting into terrorists’ hands.

Obama wore a tired look after a 17-hour flight from Washington, a helicopter ride to the border zone, two sets of diplomatic talks, the news conference and an official dinner. But he succeeded in showing solidarity with his diplomatic friend, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and in cementing a lasting presidential image from inside no-man’s land.

The Demilitarized Zone is a Cold War anachronism, a legacy of the uncertain armistice that ended the Korean War nearly 60 years ago. Hundreds of thousands of troops stand ready on both sides of the border zone, which is littered with land mines and encased in razor wire.

From a lookout point with binoculars is hand, Obama peered North, then South, within a football-field’s length of the demarcation line.

He also shook hands and spoke briefly in the dining hall at a U.S. military camp just outside the 2.5-mile-zone, saying the troops were working at “freedom’s frontier.”

The United States has about 28,500 troops in South Korea, a deterrent force and a symbol of the military might Obama wants to keep in Asia.

The planned rocket launch by North Korea is yet another setback for the U.S. in years of on-again, off-again attempts to launch real negotiations.

North Korea walked away from international disarmament talks in 2009. Years of fitful negotiations had succeeded in ending part of North Korea’s nuclear program but failed in stopping it from building and testing nuclear devices and long-range missiles that might be able to carry bombs.

Obama said the launch would jeopardize a new deal for the U.S. to resume food aid to North Korea, and the world community would likely respond with another round of sanctions.

The big consequence for North Korea, he said, would be one big blown opportunity.

“If a country can’t feed its people effectively, if it can’t make anything of any use to anybody, if it has no exports other than weapons, and even those aren’t ones that in any way would be considered state-of-the-art … then you’d think you’d want to try something different.”

For his part, Lee said: “There is no difference of opinion between the U.S. and South Korea. We’ll remain very calm and rational and we will be wise in dealing with the North Koreans if in fact they do go ahead with their announcement.”

Obama has called nuclear terrorism the gravest threat the United States and the world may face. North Korea is a prime suspect in the proliferation of some nuclear know-how, along with missiles that could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

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