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North Korean heir lauded as 'supreme commander'

world Updated: Dec 24, 2011 21:00 IST

AP
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North Korea vowed on Saturday to uphold Kim Jong Il's son as "supreme commander" as the campaign to install the young man as the next leader of the socialist nation sped up one week after his father's death.

As the grieving continued for Kim Jong Il, state media also emphasized successor Kim Jong Un's bloodline and legacy in carrying out the Kim family claim to lead and protect the North Korean people.

Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s and was unveiled last year as his father's choice as successor, will be the third generation Kim to rule the country since its inception in 1948.

The call to rally behind Kim Jong Un, dubbed the "Great Successor" the day his father's death from a heart attack was announced, comes amid a dramatic show of grief across North Korea.

The country is to remain in an official state of mourning until after Kim's funeral on Wednesday and a memorial Thursday.

Footage from Associated Press Television News in the capital, Pyongyang, showed a throng of North Koreans climbing stairs and placing flowers and wreaths neatly in a row below a portrait of Kim Jong Il as solemn music filled the air and young uniformed soldiers, their heads shaved, bowed to the portrait with their eyes closed.

A sobbing Jong Myong Hui, a Pyongyang citizen taking a break from shoveling snow, told APTN that she came out voluntarily to "clear the way for Kim Jong Il's last journey."

For days, life in Pyongyang has come to a standstill, with shops and restaurants closed. Downtown Koryo Hotel, one of several in Pyongyang catering to foreigners, was nearly empty.