Kim Jong-un was calm and composed as he saluted the troops. At times, he cracked a smile as he chatted with Marshal Ri and Armed Forces Minister Kim Yong-chun. Other key figures present were Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of North Korea’s parliament; Premier Choe Yong-rim; Kang Sok-ju, a vice premier who was Kim Jong-il’s key foreign policy adviser; and his Kim Jong‘un’s aunt, Kim Kyong-hui.
Later, MR. Kim attended a performance of songs and orchestral music in his father’s honor at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium that ended with a spirited rendition of “Footsteps” featuring tap-dancing soldiers. Afterward, the orchestra and performers stood to clap and chant “Kim Jong-un, single-hearted unity!” and “Kim Jong-un, defend to the death!” for five minutes, with the audience joining in.
Elsewhere in Pyongyang, at the main plaza at Kim Il-sung Square, the Pyongyang Circus Theater, the stadium and the Mansudae Art Studio grounds where a bronze statue of Kim Jong-il on horseback was unveiled this week, North Koreans paid their respects to KimJong-il by bowing and laying flowers.
Thursday’s memorial could serve as closure to North Korea’s mourning ahead of important nuclear talks next week with the United States, said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies in South Korea.
Kim Jong-il’s death put discussions between Pyongyang and Washington on food aid and nuclear disarmament talks on hold. A U.S. nuclear envoy will meet with North Koreans next week in Beijing, the first such negotiations since Kim Jong-i’s death.
“There were a lot of balls in the air when Kim Jong-il died, so things froze,” Mr. Delury said. “The timing of this public ceremony … allows North Korea to make a last major public expression of grief as part of moving on and getting back to a lot of orders of business.”
Associated Press writers Kim Kwang-hyon in Pyongyang and Hyung-jin Kim and Sam Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.