British official describes Pyongyang after death of Kim Jong Il
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REPORTING FROM SEOUL –- Britain has become one of the first nations to have its embassy officials report to the world with a bird’s-eye view of Pyongyang in the days after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
British diplomats were also among several foreign missions in the North Korean capital to have been received by the nation’s anointed new leader, Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong Un, at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace on Tuesday.
Barnaby Jones, first secretary at the British Embassy in Pyongyang, said he was invited along with other foreign diplomats to view the late dictator’s body, which was on display at the mausoleum.
That’s where he said he was greeted by North Korea’s leader-in-waiting.
‘Kim Jong Un was receiving diplomats and representatives of international organizations at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace,’ Jones told reporters in a telephone interview from Pyongyang.
He described the mood in the capital as ‘subdued but calm.’
‘We have been out on the streets of Pyongyang, closely monitoring the situation since the news first broke. North Koreans are in a state of mourning, and we have seen people paying their respects at landmarks across the city,’ Jones said.
‘People are carrying out their normal daily business. There is a normal amount of traffic on the streets, though many shops and restaurants are currently closed.’
Jones, who recently started his post as charge d’affaires at the British Embassy, said British nationals living in Pyongyang have been asked to monitor news.
‘In terms of what we have seen on the streets, we have seen groups of schoolchildren going to and from locations where they have been standing in front of monuments or murals of Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il, as well as other groups of people,’ he said.
‘At the biggest monuments or the biggest locations where people can stand, those groups get much, much larger.’
He added that ‘in most places across the city, I would say that we are not seeing crowds, we are seeing large groups and it is all very orderly.’
A funeral for Kim Jong Il, who died Saturday of a heart attack, has been scheduled for Dec. 28.
-- John M. Glionna