Kim Jong Il Funeral: Thousands Line Streets Of North Korea's Pyongyang (Pictures) (Video)

The Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 28/12/11 08:24 Updated: 28/12/11 14:42

Tens of thousands of North Koreans have lined the cold streets of Pyongyang to bid farewell to former leader Kim Jong Il, who died earlier this month aged 69.

His son and successor, Kim Jong Un, took the role of head mourner and state media showed him with one hand on the hearse with the other raised in salute.

He was accompanied in the procession through the snowy streets of the North Korean capital today by Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law, who is expected to play a key role in the new regime.

"How can the sky not cry?" a weeping soldier standing in the snow told state TV. "The people... are all crying tears of blood." State television also said the heavy snow fall ahead of the funeral was due to “heaven’s grief”.

Kim Jong Il, who was known as the "dear leader" by his people, died on 17 December "from great mental and physical strain" on a train, according to state media.

He took power in 1994 after the death of his father Kim Il-Sung and was reported to have suffered a stroke in 2008. However he had appeared relatively healthy on recent trips around Asia, despite reports he may have been suffering from cancer.

Outside of North Korea Kim Jong Il will be remembered as a brutal leader who prioritised military growth over his own people's welfare.

Under his rule, North Korea built the world's fifth-largest military - even as the country starved in a prolonged famine. He also relentlessly pursued nuclear arms, an endeavour which culminated in the country's first nuclear test in 2006.

FOLLOW HUFFPOST UK