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As nation mourns Kim Jong Il, his son is named 'supreme leader'

Kim Jong Il's son and successor was declared "supreme leader" of North Korea's ruling party, military and people during a memorial today for his late father, marking the government's first public endorsement of his leadership.

"Respected comrade Kim Jong Un is our party and military's supreme leader who inherits great comrade Kim Jong Il's ideology, character and revolutionary" cause, Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and the ceremonial head of state, told the crowd in Kim Il Sung Square.

"The fact that he completely resolved the succession matter is great comrade Kim Jong Il's most noble achievement."

Kim Jong Un's leadership is not expected to become formal until top party, parliamentary and government representatives convene to confirm his ascension.

The announcement came as Kim Jong Un stood watching from a balcony at the Grand People's Study House overlooking Kim Il Sung Square, flanked by the top party and military officials.

Hundreds of thousands packed the square, filling the plaza from the Grand People's Study to the Taedong River for the second day of funeral ceremonies for the late leader.

It was a cold, gray day as the memorial began with a silent tribute for the man who led his 24 million people with absolute rule for 17 years after taking power following the 1994 death of his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.

The memorial for Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack Dec. 17 at age 69, followed Wednesday's funeral procession.

Kim Jong Un was head mourner during the 2 1/2 -hour procession around the city, walking with one hand on the black hearse that carried his father's coffin on its roof.

At the end of the procession, rifles fired 21 times as Kim Jong Un stood flanked by the top party and military officials who are expected to be his inner circle of advisers.

They included Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law and a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, who is expected to be crucial in helping Kim Jong Un take power.

Others included military chief Ri Yong Ho and People's Armed Forces Minster Kim Yong Chun. Top Workers' Party officials Choe Thae Bok and Kim Ki Nam and senior military officer Kim Jong Gak also took prominent positions.

Though analysts say Kim Jong Un is on the path toward cementing his power and all moves in North Korea so far point in that direction -- from titles giving him power over the ruling party and military and his leading position in the funeral procession -- his age and inexperience leave questions about his long-term prospects.

Whereas his father was groomed for power for 20 years before taking over, Kim has had only about two years.

He also faces the challenges of running a country that struggles to feed its people even as it pursues a nuclear weapons program that has earned it international sanctions and condemnation.

A large challenge for North Korea's propaganda apparatus will be "to counter the public's perception that the new leader is a spoiled child of privilege," said Brian Myers, an expert on North Korean propaganda at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea.

"Having Kim Jong Un trudge mournfully next to the hearse in terrible weather was a very clever move," Myers said.

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