Artillery fire and blaring horns commemorate Kim Jong Il's life
Speeches at the ceremony proclaim his son Kim Jong Un as 'supreme leader'
The service takes place a day after the elder Kim's three-hour funeral procession
His death earlier this month has created uncertainty about the country's stability
Huge crowds assembled in Pyongyang on Thursday at a national memorial service for the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the second day of state-orchestrated ceremonies to mourn the dictator who died earlier this month.
The authoritarian regime used a mixture of somber music, hyperbolic speeches, booming artillery fire and blaring horns to honor the man who oversaw 17 years of despotic rule in the secretive nation.
The ceremony took place a day after a funeral procession for Kim had spent three hours winding through the snow-laden streets of Pyongyang lined with thousands of wailing mourners.
Once again, the regime placed Kim Jong Un, the son and chosen successor of Kim Jong Il, at the center of proceedings, proclaiming him the “supreme leader” of North Korea – a fresh indication that the leadership transition is progressing smoothly.
The footage broadcast Thursday by North Korean state television showed thick rectangular blocks of people gathered in the snowy expanse of Kim Il Sung Square, which is named after Kim Jong Il’s father, the founder of North Korea. Kim Jong Un and other senior members of the regime stood solemnly on a viewing platform overlooking the square.
Kim Jong Un and other senior members of the regime stood solemnly on a viewing platform overlooking the square.
During the ceremony, a string of top officials took to the microphone to praise Kim Jong Il’s life and reinforce Kim Jong Un’s leadership credentials.
“Kim Jong Un is the greatest leader who has inherited Kim Jong Il’s beliefs, leadership, courage and guts,” said Kim Yong Nam, the president of the North Korean parliament.
Read about the Wednesday funeral for Kim Jong Il
“Kim Jong Il’s great achievements will shine forever,” said Kim Ki Nam, a senior official in the powerful Worker’s Party. “Following our party’s supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, we are converting our sadness to courage and we will achieve great things.”
Under Kim Jong Il, the country suffered a devastating famine even as it built up its million-strong army, expanded its arsenal of ballistic missiles and became the world’s eighth declared nuclear power.
He died on December 17, reportedly from a heart attack. News of his death, announced two days later, put the region on edge and set off speculation around the world about the country’s stability and future direction.
For the time being, Kim Jong Un appears to be rallying support within the regime, despite his young age – he is thought to be in his late 20s – and relative inexperience.
After the speeches, a row of heavy guns fired off a salute. Then, a cacophony of horns and sirens went off, drawing the broadcast of the service to a close.
CNN’s Tim Schwartz contributed to this report.