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(LEAD) N. Koreans bid farewell to Kim Jong-il in snow-delayed funeral

All Headlines 14:35 December 28, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with start of funeral ceremony and praise for Kim's legacy; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, Dec. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea began a state funeral for its late leader Kim Jong-il at a snow-covered plaza in Pyongyang on Wednesday, with new leader Kim Jong-un walking at the right front of the hearse, followed by the North's military and political elites.

The state funeral, broadcast live by North Korean television and radio, started at 2 p.m., four hours behind schedule due to heavy snow that began Tuesday night.

The motorcade carrying the late Kim's hearse departed from the plaza of Kumsusan Memorial Palace towards downtown Pyongyang.

The late leader, who ruled North Korea with an iron fist and pursued nuclear weapons programs in defiance of international pressure, was reported to have died suddenly of heart failure on Dec. 17 at the age of 69.

Hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens lined the streets in Pyongyang despite the snow to watch the funeral motorcade.

Kim's body will return to lie in state in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where the embalmed body of his father and North Korea founder Kim Il-sung also lies.

The North's state media heaped praises on its deceased "Dear Leader" for his efforts to build a nuclear state and his revolutionary legacy, which it claims promises a bright future for the North.

North Korea, one of the poorest countries in the world, has vowed to build a prosperous nation by next year, the centennial of the birth of Kim's father, the country's late founder Kim Il-sung.

"North Korea has been dignified as a country that manufactured and launched artificial satellites and accessed nukes," the North's main Rodong Sinmun said in a political essay carried by the KCNA.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, drawing international condemnation and tightened U.N. sanctions.


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