NKoreans remember late founder

PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Koreans paid respects Wednesday to their country's late founder on the 15th anniversary of his death, laying flowers and bowing reverently before a huge stature of Kim Il Sung.

Broadcaster APTN showed footage of North Koreans bowing repeatedly amid solemn music outside the hilltop Mansudae Assembly Hall in the North Korean capital.

"The great leader, President Kim Il Sung, is always alive — not only in the hearts of our people, but also in the minds of people all over the world," said Hwang In San, a Pyongyang resident.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Kim Il Sung's son, appeared at a memorial ceremony at a Pyongyang auditorium attended by hundreds of military officers and senior government officials, footage showed.

Kim Il Sung died of heart failure on July 8, 1994 at the age of 82. He ran the communist country with an iron grip and was the object of an intense personality cult.

The North's Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday that the younger Kim visited the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang accompanied by top military generals.

Kim Il Sung's embalmed body lies in the palace.

Kim Jong Il assumed power after his father's death, though he did not take on his father's title of president. He runs North Korea from his post as chairman of the National Defense Commission.

The anniversary of the death comes this year amid intense speculation over preparations for the next transfer of power in the world's first communist dynasty.

The 67-year-old Kim, who is reputed to have suffered a stroke last year, is believed to be preparing to eventually hand power to one of his own sons.

Interest has intensified because of concerns over Kim Jong Il's health and as the country has carried out two underground nuclear tests since 2006.

The latest came on May 25 and has led to concerns of regional instability and the possibility that the country's neighbors, South Korea and Japan, may eventually be tempted to develop nuclear weapons if North Korea's program is not stopped.