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'Born of Heaven' son poised to rule

North Korea is preparing to lay long-time ruler Kim Jong Il to rest as the hermit state's official media lauded his son and heir apparent as a person "born of heaven" - suggesting the transition to a new leadership was under way.

The streets of the North Korean capital Pyongyang were quiet on Tuesday as thousands grieved the death of their "Dear Leader". North Korean state television showed Kim laid out in an open coffin.

With an 11-day mourning period in effect, flags flew at half-mast, shops were closed and streams of mourners - some wailing - placed flowers at memorials around the city.

Kim died on Saturday of a massive heart attack brought about by overwork and stress, according to the North's media. He was 69 - though some experts question the official accounts of his birth date and location.

The state funeral is to be held on December 28. North Korean officials say they will not invite foreign delegations and will allow no entertainment during the mourning period.

Kim's death and the possibility of a power struggle in a country armed with nuclear weapons and known for its unpredictability has heightened tensions in the region.

North Korean state media has given clear indications that Kim's third son will succeed him. The Korean Central News Agency described Kim Jong Un as a "a great person born of heaven" a propaganda term only his father Kim Jong Il and his grandfather Kim Il Sung had enjoyed.

It described the twenty-something Kim as "born of Mount Paektu", one of Korea's most cherished sites and Kim Jong Il's official birthplace. On Monday, the North said in a dispatch that the people and the military "have pledged to uphold the leadership of comrade Kim Jong Un" and called him a "great successor" of the country's revolutionary philosophy of juche, or self reliance.

Kim Jong Il was in power for 17 years after the death of his father, the charismatic founder of the North Korean nation.

His death could set back efforts by the United States and others to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. It also comes at a sensitive time for North Korea, which is preparing for next year's 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung.


From Belfast Telegraph