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North Korea in transition

Wed., Dec. 21, 2011, midnight

Mourners view the body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Tuesday. (Associated Press)
Mourners view the body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Tuesday. (Associated Press)

No power struggle apparent to observers

PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Korea has tightened internal security and put troops on alert since the announcement of leader Kim Jong Il’s death as it moves to consolidate power behind his young son and heir, South Korean intelligence indicated today.

Concerns over what will happen next in the unpredictable communist enclave – which has a 1.2-million troop military, advanced ballistic missiles and a nuclear weapons development program – have sharply raised tensions around northeast Asia.

Kim Jong Il ruled the country for 17 years after inheriting power from his father, national founder and North Korean hero Kim Il Sung. His chosen heir – Kim Jong Un – only entered the public view last year and remains a mystery to most of the world.

But South Korean parliament member Kwon Young-se said Seoul’s National Intelligence Service believes the North is now concentrating on consolidating Kim Jong Un’s power and that the country has placed its troops on alert since Kim Jong Il’s death.

North Korea on Monday announced Kim, 69, died of a massive heart attack.

Kwon said the NIS has told the parliamentary intelligence committee, which he chairs, that senior military officials have pledged allegiance to Kim Jong Un, but police security has been tightened in major cities across the country. Officials in Seoul say they have not seen any unusual military troop movements.

Initial indications coming out of North Korea suggest the transition to Kim Jong Un was moving forward.

The young Kim, who is still in his 20s, led a procession of senior officials Tuesday in a viewing of Kim Jong Il’s body, which is being displayed in a glass coffin near that of Kim Il Sung.

Publicly presiding over the funeral proceedings was an important milestone for Kim’s son, strengthening his image as the country’s political face at home and abroad.

State media said Kim Jong Un also received mourners, including foreign envoys, in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. The report in KCNA did not specify which foreign countries the envoys represented.

The North has declared an 11-day period of mourning that will culminate in his state funeral and processions through the capital on Dec. 28-29.

In a move likely to anger the North, South Korean activists launched giant balloons containing tens of thousands of propaganda leaflets across the border today.


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