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“If you look at this funeral and memorial process, it is a means to show a people who cannot revolt the unity of their political leadership,” said Kim Byung-ki, a security specialist at Korea University in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

“Nothing is surprising,” added Kim Tae-woo, president of the Korean Institute of National Unification, in Seoul. “This will be quicker in the transition of power than his father’s 17 years ago. They are doing everything very quickly.”

Andrei Lankov, a North Korea analyst at Seoul’s Kookmin University, said the ascension of the third Kim makes the Stalinist nation a “kind of neofeudal state.”

“Its rhetoric and symbology is communist. Its economy is a primitive market economy like Africa, and its social structure is based on hierarchical hereditary groups like medieval Europe,” he said.

Tim Peters, an American missionary in Seoul, who assists North Korean defectors in China and South Korea, called the funeral and memorial service “completely incongruous with reality.”

“It is a painful thing to watch this outpouring of emotion for someone who has been one of the most terrible despots of the 20th and 21st centuries,” he said.

Beyond Pyongyang, North Korea’s infrastructure has decayed. Much of the populace is destitute, with per-capita income thought to be about one-fortieth that of South Korea’s.

Human rights abuses are rampant in labor and re-education camps. The United Nations estimates that one-quarter of the population is undernourished and perhaps 10 percent of the population died in famines in the late 1990s.

In Washington, the State Department announced that it is dispatching a top U.S. diplomat to China, South Korea and Japan next week to discuss the transition in North Korea.

Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the region since the death of Kim Jong-il.

Kim Jong-il, who led the nation of 24 million people with absolute power, died of a heart attack at age 69, according to state media.

Attention turned to Kim Jong-un after he was revealed last year as his father’s choice among three known sons to carry the Kim dynasty into a third generation, the Associated Press reported.

The process to groom him was rushed compared with the 22 years Kim Jong-il had to prepare to take over from his father, and relied heavily on the Kim family bloodline and legacy as guerrilla fighters and the nation’s founders.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.