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(2nd LD) N. Korea says late leader's body to lie in state in mausoleum

All Headlines 17:56 January 12, 2012

(ATTN: UPDATES with separate KCNA report and ADDS background in paras 12-15; Minor edits; TRIMS)

SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Thursday the body of late leader Kim Jong-il will lie in state permanently at a mausoleum as its official media lauded him as a "saint" and "sun of humankind."

The North also said it will erect Kim's statue and build his portraits and "towers to his immortality" across the country in what could be an attempt to strengthen his personality cult and justify the dynastic power succession of his son, Kim Jong-un.

The younger Kim became the supreme commander of the country's 1.1 million-strong military soon after his father's sudden demise as part of attempts to consolidate his power.

"From the standpoint of Jong-un, Kim Jong-il needs to be idolized," said a South Korean official, who closely monitors the North Korean situation. He asked not to be identified, citing policy.

Kim, who died of heart attack last month, "will be laid in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace," the North's Workers' Party said in a special report carried by the country's Korean Central News Agency.

The North already has about four statues of Kim Jong-il in the security agency and key military units, according to a source who is in a position to know the situation in the North.

The North said it made the decision to reflect "the unanimous desire and ardent request of all party members, service personnel and people to hold (Kim Jong-il) in high esteem as the eternal leader of the party."

The memorial palace was home to the late Kim's father, North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, during his lifetime and converted to a mausoleum after his death to continue housing his embalmed body.

North Koreans continue to refer to the country's founder as the "eternal president" and frequently visit his towering bronze statue overlooking Pyongyang on major holidays.

His April 15 birthday -- dubbed the "Day of Sun" -- is one of the most important holidays in the isolated country along with the Feb. 16 birthday of his son, Kim Jong-il.

The Workers' Party said the February birthday will be instituted as the "Day of the Shining Star." "Shining Star" was also the name of a satellite North Korea claimed to have successfully put into orbit in April 2009 as part of a peaceful space program.

South Korea and the United States said at the time that the launch was meant to test North Korea's ballistic missile technology and that no object entered orbit.

In a separate dispatch, the KCNA claimed that people around the world have awarded the late leader as many as 1,200 honorific titles in what could be the North's latest propaganda campaign to cement his personality cult.

"People across the world call him 'champion of justice,' 'guardian of peace for mankind,' 'great prophet' and 'saint,'" the dispatch said Thursday.

Still, North Korea has yet to return to international talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs after quitting them in April 2009. It left the talks in anger over the international condemnation of its April rocket launch and proceeded to conduct a second nuclear test a month later.

entropy@yna.co.kr
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