STREAMS of mourners, including heir Kim Jong-un, passed by the open coffin of North Korea's longtime ruler Kim Jong-il today, his body covered with a red blanket, his head resting on a white pillow, state media showed.
The coffin of Kim Jong-il, who died of a heart attack on Saturday, was surrounded by flowers, while two guards looked over his body.
The still images showed on North Korea's state TV showed a giant red curtain covering a wall behind Kim. Senior officials were shown lining up to pay their respects, one woman apparently wiping tears from her eyes.
Mourners around the country, many of them sobbing, offered flowers and last respects to Kim at public monuments while state media fed a budding personality cult around his third son, Kim Jong-un, hailing him as "born of heaven."
Flags across North Korea flew at half-staff at all military units, factories, businesses, farms and public buildings. The streets of Pyongyang were quiet, but throngs of people gathered at landmarks honouring Kim, footage from Associated Press Television News in Pyongyang showed.
"Comrade Kim Jong-un... paid a visit to the body of comrade Kim Jong-Il with party, government and military officials and expressed condolences with the deepest sorrow," the official news agency said.
Official media have reported scenes of mass grief since Kim's death at the age of 69 was announced Monday. He died two days earlier of a heart attack during a train trip.
Just three days earlier, he made his final public appearance, a trip to see the renovation of a supermarket in Pyongyang and then a visit to new Korean music centre, which he praised for its "modern stereo sound facilities".
His death was not entirely unexpected; a stroke in 2008 had left him in poor health and hastened the elevation of his third son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor. The younger Kim's first test will be how he manages his father's funeral, which will take place on December 28. The French doctor who treated Kim after his stroke confirmed yesterday that the North Korean leader had been in a coma in 2008, and that Kim Jong-un had been ever-present by his father's bedside.
After yesterday's announcement, North Korea went into lockdown. In Musan, on the Chinese border, armed soldiers were reported to be stationed every 13ft along the main roads and had closed down all markets, chasing out what the North Koreans call "grasshopper" traders, men and women who lay out their blankets in alleyways to sell goods smuggled from China.
There will be 12 days of mourning and, on December 28, a state funeral will see cannons fired across the country and three minutes of silence. "All institutions and enterprises across the country will hold mourning events during the mourning period," instructed KCNA.
North Korea has set the senior Kim's funeral for December 28 and urged people to rally round the son as "great successor".