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North Korea holds funeral for Kim Jong Il (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

The North Korean military today began the two-day funeral services of late leader Kim Jong Il with a procession in the capital, Pyongyang, that ended with a 21-gun salute.

The North Korean military today began the two-day funeral services of late leader Kim Jong Il with a procession in the capital, Pyongyang, that ended with a 21-gun salute, Al Jazeera reported.

State television footage showed crowds of mourners lining the wintry streets as a black hearse carrying Kim's coffin, escorted by his son and heir Kim Jong Un, was taken to the national palace.

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Leading the procession was a limousine displaying a giant portrait of the deceased leader, who has been lying in state for 10 days. It passed by tens of thousands of soldiers with their bare heads bowed in homage, the BBC reported.

It is understood that no foreign delegations were present at the three-hour funeral, and no schedule had been released.

The younger Kim was accompanied by his uncle and “crucial transition figure” Jang Song Thaek, who is expected to help Kim, who is in his late 20s, consolidate power. Also with them was army chief of staff Ri Yong Ho.

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Since the death of the "dear leader" from a heart attack on December 17, state media have worked to cement the Kim family's hold on power by referring to Kim Jong Un as the "great successor," ''supreme leader" and "sagacious leader," the Associated Press reported.

Kim Jong Il had been in the process of grooming his youngest son to succeed him when he died.

North Korea appeared to use the funeral as another opportunity to strengthen the cult of personality around the Kim family, The New York Times stated. The funeral was well choreographed, and state media attributed the snow fall ahead of the funeral to the "heaven's grief" over the loss of the Dear Leader.

"A national tragedy has occurred," a soldier told North Korean state TV, as reported by the Guardian. "How could the sky not cry? The people are all crying tears of blood."

Various media reports said Wednesday's funeral procession was very similar to the one held in 1994 for Kim Jong Il's father, Kim Il Sung.

The funeral commemorations will continue on Thursday, the BBC reported, with a three-minute silence at noon, followed by a national memorial service.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/111228/north-korea-holds-funeral-kim-jong-il