UNITED NATIONS — The flag of the United Nations flew at half-mast Wednesday at the world’s body headquarters in New York and its Geneva offices to mark the funeral for late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Choi Soung-ah, a spokeswoman for U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon, said it was customary practice for the U.N. flag to be lowered to half-mast upon the deaths of leaders of U.N. member states. The non-governmental organization U.N. Watch said while protocol had to be followed, “the world body must not forget that its founding purpose is to defend basic human rights.” “Sadly, that message is at serious risk of being blurred today,” U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said. “Today should be a time for the U.N. to show solidarity with the victims — the millions of North Koreans brutalized by Kim’s merciless policies of starvation and oppression — and not with the perpetrators.”
Tens of thousands of weeping North Koreans bade farewell Wednesday to longtime leader Kim as his young son and successor walked beside his father’s coffin through a snowbound Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un was at the forefront of the three-hour procession, in what analysts said was an attempt to bolster the image of the untested new leader of the impoverished but nuclear-armed nation.