North Korea was Tuesday preparing a massive ceremonial farewell to late leader Kim Jong-Il as it strove to strengthen a new personality cult around his youthful son and successor Jong-Un.
The secretive state has so far given no details of Wednesday’s funeral for its “Dear Leader” of the past 17 years and has not invited foreign delegations to the ceremony.
But analysts say the regime, as it did in 1994 when Kim Jong-Il’s own father died, will use the event to shore up loyalty to the new leader and will likely mobilise hundreds of thousands of people.
The untested Jong-Un, aged only in his late 20s, has been thrust into the world spotlight since his father died suddenly on December 17 aged 69.
Official media has added several titles to his flimsy CV, declaring him “great successor”, supreme commander of the world’s fourth-largest military and head of the ruling party’s powerful Central Committee.
The son, who has not yet been formally appointed to the party and military posts, has been the central figure in scenes of mourning at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where his father lies in state in a glass coffin.
While Kim Jong-Il had 20 years to prepare for the communist world’s only dynastic succession, Jong-Un has had barely three.
The South’s Yonhap news agency quoted head of Seoul’s National Intelligence Service, Won Sei-hoon, as telling lawmakers that the North appears likely to continue the policies of its late leader.
Analysts will closely watch the funeral for clues about who will most influence him.
They said the military was expected to fire a 24-gun salute and troops would march through central Pyongyang, accompanying a limousine carrying Kim’s coffin and another car with a giant photo.
Military marching bands would play funeral music while convoys of motorcycles and cars carrying flowers and senior officials would follow the coffin as hundreds of thousands looked on, the media forecast.
Trains, ships and other vehicles or machinery will sound their horns.
Mourning will officially end Thursday with a nationwide memorial service including a three-minute silence at noon.