All eyes set on Kim Jong Il's funeral committee list

December 27, 2011

By TETSUYA HAKODA / Correspondent

SEOUL--Kim Jong Il's funeral will be held Dec. 28 in Pyongyang with all eyes trained on members of the funeral committee, led by Kim Jong Un, the dead North Korean despot's third son and successor.

The 232 members of the National Funeral Committee are believed to be the foundation of the inexperienced Kim's base of support.

"All 232 funeral committee members are basically pro-Kim Jong Un," a senior South Korean intelligence official told a closed meeting of a South Korean National Assembly committee, according to sources.

The committee makeup was released Dec. 19 immediately after Kim Jong Il's death was announced. It follows the hierarchy in place at the time of the September 2010 Workers' Party of Korea Conference, when Kim Jong Un was named vice chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission.

Kim Jong Il, who died on Dec. 17, is believed to have pushed through the personnel appointments at that party conference as a measure to cement his son's path to power.

The funeral committee roster is headed by Kim Jong Un, followed by Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly; Choe Yong Rim, premier; Ri Yong Ho, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army; and Kim Yong Chun, minister of the People's Armed Forces. Only Kim Jong Un was listed with the title of "comrade."

Powerful senior officials of the Kim Jong Il regime hold prominent positions at the top of the roster. Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Jong Il's younger sister, was ranked 14th, while Jang Song Thaek--Kim Kyong Hui's husband and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, whose position in the new regime is drawing much attention--was ranked 19th.

Besides Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Ri Yong Ho is seen as another key figure who may wield significant influence in the new regime. Ri, believed to be close to Jang, rose rapidly in the military hierarchy following Kim Jong Il's stroke in summer 2008.

During last year's WPK Conference, Ri was promoted to vice chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission alongside Kim Jong Un, giving Ri a powerful party position to go along with his military rank.

Meanwhile, O Kuk Ryol, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, was less fortunate. He was not named to the WPK Political Bureau or other organizations at the WPK Conference despite his major clout in the military. O was ranked only 29th on the list of funeral committee members.

Sources say that O and Jang are not getting along well with each other, and there is speculation in South Korea that discontented forces may coalesce around O in case the nascent Kim Jong Un regime stumbles.

No program has been released for Kim Jong Il's funeral, but observers say it will likely be similar to the 1994 rites held for Kim Il Sung, his father and predecessor.

The funeral is expected to be held at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where Kim Jong Il's body now lies in state. His third son is expected to slowly circle his father's coffin to pay his respects while the funeral committee observes.

Following the ceremony, a procession will tour Pyongyang. Vehicles carrying musical bands, flower wreaths and a huge photograph of the late dictator will be followed by a hearse transporting the body.

The procession is expected to stop at Kim Il Sung Square and pass through the Arch of Triumph before returning to Kumsusan palace.

During the 1994 funeral, about 2 million people, or nearly one-tenth of the population of the nation, were reported to have lined the streets.

Kim Il Sung's funeral started at 10 a.m. There was no live TV broadcast at the time. The ceremonies were recorded and broadcast on radio from noon to 3:30 p.m. and on TV from 3 p.m.

By TETSUYA HAKODA / Correspondent
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The body of Kim Jong Il, the late leader of North Korea, is laid out Dec. 20 at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang. (Provided by Korea News Service in Tokyo)

The body of Kim Jong Il, the late leader of North Korea, is laid out Dec. 20 at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang. (Provided by Korea News Service in Tokyo)

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  • The body of Kim Jong Il, the late leader of North Korea, is laid out Dec. 20 at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang. (Provided by Korea News Service in Tokyo)

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