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North Korean Mourners Crowd Streets for Elaborate Farewell to Kim Jong-il

December 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFILL: The capital city of North Korea was a vast sea of grief today. Thousands upon thousands of people turned out in bitter cold for the two-and-a-half-hour funeral procession for Kim Jong-il.

We begin with a report from Angus Walker of Independent Television News.

ANGUS WALKER: It was perhaps fitting for a leader of a country still trapped in the Cold War that Kim Jong-il’s funeral procession made its way through the frozen capital of his regime.

As the snow fell, so did the tears.

Voices trembling with emotion, state television commentators said that people would devote themselves to the departed Dear Leader. In a nation shrouded in secrecy, cut off from the world, he was all they knew on every screen, every front page, every billboard, a hero, a father figure, a god. And they mourn with religious fervor.

“How could the sky not cry when we have lost our general who was a great man from the sky?” this soldier says.

After the father comes the son. The next leader, Kim Jong-un, was given a key position, walking alongside the hearse just in front of his uncle, the power behind the throne. Only the party faithful have been allowed to line the route to show their boundless loyalty, which spilled out onto the streets.

This was orchestrated propaganda, the regime telling its people that it’s still in control, the military showing its might to the world, a reminder North Korea is a nuclear power now led by a young man in his 20s, thrust into leadership by his father’s death.

GWEN IFILL: We will have more on the North Korea story later in the program.