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Kim Jong-il mourned 1 year later
PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea unveiled the embalmed body of Kim Jong-il, still in his trademark khaki jumpsuit, on the anniversary of his death Monday as mourning mixed with pride over a recent satellite launch that was a long-held goal of the late authoritarian leader.
He lies in state a few floors below his father, national founder Kim Il-sung, in the Kumsusan mausoleum, the cavernous former presidential palace. Kim Jong-il is presented lying beneath a red blanket, a spotlight shining on his face in a room suffused in red.
Wails echoed through the chilly hall as a group of North Korean women sobbed into the sashes of their traditional Korean dresses as they bowed before his body.
The hall bearing the glass coffin was opened to select visitors — including The Associated Press — for the first time since his death.
Among the personal belongings featured in the mausoleum are the parka, sunglasses and pointy platform shoes he famously wore in the last decades of his life. A MacBook Pro lay open on his desk.
North Koreans paid homage to Kim and basked in the success of last week’s launch of a long-range rocket that sent a satellite named after him to space.
The launch, condemned in many other capitals as a violation of bans against developing its missile technology, was portrayed not only as a gift to Kim Jong-il but also as proof that his young son, Kim Jong-un, has the strength and vision to lead the country.
The elder Kim died Dec. 17, 2011, from a heart attack while traveling on his train.
His death was followed by scenes of North Koreans dramatically wailing in the streets of Pyongyang, and of his 20-something son leading ranks of uniformed and gray-haired officials through funeral and mourning rites.
The mood in the capital was decidedly more upbeat a year later, with some of the euphoria carrying over from last Wednesday’s launch. The satellite bears one of Kim Jong-il’s nicknames, Kwangmyongsong, or “Lode Star,” a moniker given to him at birth, according to the official lore.
Cameras were not allowed inside the mausoleum, and state media did not release any images of Kim Jong-il’s body.
With the death anniversary came a hint that Kim Jong-un himself might soon be a father.
His wife, Ri Sol-ju, was seen on state TV with what appeared to be a baby bump as she walked slowly next to her husband at the mausoleum, where they bowed to statues of Kim Jong-un’s father and grandfather.
There is no official word from Pyongyang about a pregnancy. In addition, Mrs. Ri is shown wearing a billowing traditional Korean dress in black that makes it difficult to know for sure.
North Koreans are reluctant to discuss details of the Kim family that have not been released by the state. Still, there are rumors even in Pyongyang about whether the country’s first couple is expecting.
By Tom Fitton
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