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North Korea holds funeral for Kim Jong Il

PYONGYANG, North Korea, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- North Koreans prepared Wednesday to bid farewell to their departed "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il, with few details of the funeral disclosed to the outside world.

Kim Jong Il, who led the isolated Communist country from 1994 -- after the death of his father and national founder Kim Il Sung -- died Dec. 17 at 69. The government said he died of heart failure while traveling on a train.

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North Korea has not accepted any foreign delegation at the funeral in the capital Pyongyang.

Beginning Wednesday morning, state television continuously aired previously shown video of Kim Jong Il's son and successor Kim Jong Un and other mourners paying respects in front of the late dictator, who lay in state in a glass case, CNN reported. Tens of thousands of people were expected to attend the funeral.

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Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of King Jong Il, is said to be in his late 20s. He has been receiving accolades from the state media although little else is known about him, raising questions as to whether he would be able to consolidate his power in a nuclear-armed country with a huge military.

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South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the North's military and political leaders have been expressing loyalty to their new leader.

North Korea's state news agency KCNA has referred to Kim Jong Un as the "wise leader" of the ruling Worker's party, country and army.

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The new leader Monday accepted condolences on his father's death from a South Korean mourners' group, led by Lee Hee-ho, widow of former South Koreas President Kim Dae Jung, and Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of the Hyundai Group.

Rodong Sinmun, the state newspaper, said in an essay Wednesday the revolutionary legacy of Kim Jong Il is the people of North Korea, and that he left nothing for himself, KCNA reported.

"Kim Jong Il performed immense ideological and theoretical feats and built lots of edifices on this land and left rich cultural treasures," the essay said.

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North Korea "has been dignified as a country that manufactured and launched artificial satellites and accessed nukes."

"Thanks to these legacies we do not worry about the destiny of ourselves and posterity at this time of national mourning," KCNA quoted the essay as saying.

"The system will try to make sure that Kim Jong Un, this young man, is a legitimate leader, so probably he will be spotlighted in the funeral procession," University of Georgia Professor Han Park told CNN.

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North Korea analyst Denny Roy at Honolulu's East-West Center said observers outside North Korea would be watching the ceremonies for clues as to where leading figures stand in the new hierarchy, CNN reported.

"What I expect to see is no sign that there's any hiccup or difficulty in Kim Jong Il's plan to have his son Kim Jong Un succeed him," Roy said.

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