In this Tuesday, Dec 27, 2011 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo Wednesday, Dec 28, 2011 by the Korea News Service, North Koreans gather in front of a huge portrait of their late leader Kim Jong Il to mourn his death in Pyongyang, North Korea. -- PHOTO: AP
MOSCOW (AFP) - The funeral ceremony for the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il started on Wednesday in Pyongyang, reported the ITAR-TASS news agency, the only Russian media with offices in the reclusive country.
The first phase of the ceremony began at 10am (9am Singapore time) in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where the late strongman's body is lying in state in a glass coffin, the agency said.
A funeral procession with the coffin is expected to drive through the streets of Pyongyang as part of the proceedings, for which no programme was made public.
Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans were expected to gather on Pyongyang's chilly streets to bid a final farewell to their leader.
Foreign delegations were not invited to the funeral of Kim, who died of a heart attack on December 17 at the age of 69.
He has been replaced by his son, Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s.
Mourning will officially end Thursday with a nationwide memorial service including a three-minute silence at noon. Trains, ships and other vehicles will sound their hooters.