Birthday turns into memorial for NKorean leader

February 16, 2012 • World News

North Korean children perform in a mass synchronized swimming show in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 to celebrate the birthday of the late leader Kim Jong Il who would have turned 70 on Feb. 16, 2012. The girls swam to the song “We Are Flower Buds and Butterflies”. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Two months after the death of Kim Jong Il, North Koreans commemorated what would have been his 70th birthday Thursday with the flowers that bear his name, along with songs and art praising him as a powerful but benevolent father figure.

As the sun rose above frigid Pyongyang, North Koreans began arriving at Kim Il Sung Square, the main plaza in the capital city, to leave red “kimjongilia” begonias and other flowers at a portrait of the longtime leader hanging on the Grand People’s Study House.

The veneration of Kim has accelerated in recent weeks, but festivities were expected to be muted in light of his Dec. 17 death of a heart attack, which plunged the nation into mourning and propelled his young son into the seat of power just three years after he was anointed his father’s successor. The leadership has emphasized Kim’s legacy while praising his son, Kim Jong Un, as the only choice to lead this socialist nation of 24 million.

Composers have crafted new odes to Kim Jong Il, while sculptors have chiseled slogans Login to read more

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