Thousands of North Koreans lined up in bitter cold minus 8C temperatures to pay their respects to late leader Kim Jong-il on the 77th anniversary of his birth.
The former leader was born in a snow-covered hut at a secret camp on the slopes of Mount Paektu on the North Korean border in 1942, according to his official biography.
But Soviet records contest this, and claim he was born a year earlier in a village in the former Soviet Union – where his parents were exiled during the Japanese occupation of Korea.
North Koreans visit the statues of former Supreme Leaders Kim il-sung (left) and Kim Jong-il (right) on Mansu Hill, Pyongyang
A young girl in pink carries a single rose as she visits the statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on the Day of the Shining Star
North Koreans carry an elaborate floral arrangement as they mark the 77th anniversary of the birth of their past leader Kim Jong-il on Saturday
The Day of the Shining Star celebrates the anniversary of his birth on February 16 with elaborate ice skating displays, flower shows, and tributes in state media.
Kim Chol Jun, 42, took his two sons to Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, where giant statues of the two older Kims look out over the capital, to pay his respects.
‘No sons and daughters feel tired when they visit their parents,’ he said.
‘The great leaders are regarded as our own parents, so I visit here to bow before our parents with my sons.’
Soldiers carry flowers to lay below the statues of former North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, Saturday, February 16
Kim Jong-il, the son of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung and the father of current leader Kim Jong-un, was born on February 16 – a day now known as the Day of the Shining Star (Pictured, soldiers salute on Mansu Hill)
The Day of the Shining Star is now celebrated with ice skating displays, flower shows, and laudatory tributes in state media
Snow dusted two monumental panels – one to the fight against Japanese occupiers, the other to the building of socialism – that flank the statues, their faces bathed in the light of the rising sun as small children swept the steps clean.
In pride of place before the bronze effigies stood a large floral tribute emblazoned with the name of Kim Jong-un, who is due to hold his second summit with US President Donald Trump at the end of the month.
Pyongyang is under multiple international sanctions over its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which Washington is pressing it to give up. North Korea has rejected demands for what it calls a ‘unilateral’ disarmament.
Turn by turn, groups ranging from couples and families to hundreds-strong detachments of workers or soldiers assembled in front of the statues.
Groups ranging from couples and families to hundreds-strong detachments of workers or soldiers assembled in front of the statues
Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldiers gather as they prepare to pay their respects before the statues during the Day of the Shining Star on Mansu Hill
Kim Jong-il died in 2011 and his remains are preserved in a memorial palace on the outskirts of Pyongyang. He remains the eternal General Secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea
After placing individual blooms or flower baskets before the figures, they lined up as an announcer said: ‘Let us pay tribute’, and bowed deeply, the military personnel saluting.
Kim Jong-il died in 2011 and his remains are preserved in a memorial palace on the outskirts of Pyongyang. He remains the eternal General Secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
Retired actress Ri Cho Ok, 77, became emotional when asked about the late leader, her voice trembling as she described how much she missed him and how standing before the statues brought him to mind.
Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldiers leave after paying their respects to the former leader on the 77th anniversary of his birth
After placing individual blooms or flower baskets before the figures, they lined up as an announcer intoned: ‘Let us pay tribute’, and bowed deeply, the military personnel saluting
A woman holding a single rose and dressed in an elaborate pink dress walks before the statues, which overlook Pyongyang, on Saturday
Kim Jong Il was a film director himself and renowned cinephile, to the extent he had a top South Korean director and actress kidnapped so they could develop the North’s cinema industry. Pyongyang says their eight-year stay was voluntary.
‘The great general taught me step-by-step as I was becoming an actress,’ Ri said, ‘and gave me many orders and medals.’
‘It was like I received all the honours in the world when I met him’.
The son of North Korea’s founder and the father of its current leader: Who was Kim Jong-il?
Kim Jong-il was the second Supreme Leader of North Korea who ruled from the death of his father, Kim Il-sung, in 1994 until his own death in 2011.
He was born on February 16, 1942 in a secret military camp on Paektu Mountain on the North Korean border, his biography says.
But Soviet records contest this, and claim he was born a year earlier in the village of Vyatskoye, in the former Soviet Union, where his parents were exiled during the Japanese occupation of Korea.
Kim Jong-il was born on February 16, 1942 in a secret military camp on Baekdu Mountain on the North Korean border, his biography says
Kim was four years old when the Second World War came to an end in 1945 and Korea regained independence from Japan.
He arrived at Sonbong pier as a child aboard a Soviet ship, and his family moved into the home of a former Japanese officer – where his brother drowned in 1948.
It is believed his mother died in childbirth a year later.
The would-be leader studied politics and economics at Kim Il-sung University in 1960. He is also said to have studied English Language at the University of Malta in the early 1970s.
But by the late 1980s, Kim had emerged as heir apparent for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and assumed important posts in the party.
When his father died of a heart attack in 1994, he took control of the country.
In respect to his late father, Kim abolished the office of president and instead took the titles of general secretary of the Workers’ Party and chairman of the National Defense Commission – the highest office of the state.
Kim Jong-il is believed to have been married twice and to have taken three mistresses. He left three known sons, Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-chul and the state’s current Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
He also has two known daughters, Kim Sul-song and Kim Yo-jong.
The former leader was believed to have died of a heart attack on 17 December, 2011 at 8.30am as he travelled by train to an area outside Pyongyang.
But it was reported in December 2012 that he passed ‘in a fit of rage’ over construction faults in Jagang Province.