Weeping Koreans made a scene in the Chinese city closest to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Monday after the news of the death of the country's top leader Kim Jong Il reached across the border.
Starting Monday afternoon, throngs of DPRK nationals filled a small mourning hall in the consulate office in the city of Dandong. Some placed flowers on a table under a picture of Kim and almost all cried audibly.
"My grief is beyond words," said a middle-aged consulate official who didn't give his name. He said he would support Kim Jong Un, the son of Kim Jong Il, in carrying on the work of the late leader.
Kim Jong Il, who was general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, died from "great mental and physical strain" on Dec. 17, the DPRK's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported at noon on Monday.
Trucks loaded with flowers headed toward the China-DPRK border. Traders told Xinhua that white flowers sold out in Dandong and they had to place emergency orders for more flowers from neighboring areas.
The bridge linking the DPRK with China over the Yalu River in Dandong was busier than usual. National flags could be seen flying at half-staff on the DPRK side of the river.
Mourning services were held in the consulate office and in DPRK company offices in Dandong. Di Rentao, manager of a Dandong-based trading firm, said trade with DPRK partners came to a halt after the news broke.
DPRK nationals were seen checking out early from major Dandong hotels as well. Some could not hold back tears while finalizing their business at the front desks of hotels.
A manager with Dandong International Hotel said all the DPRK guests had left by noon on Monday and the booking of 100 rooms for a DPRK troupe was also canceled.
DPRK-themed restaurants with spectacular nightly shows were closed.
Elsewhere in China, the flag at the Embassy of the DPRK in Beijing hung at half-mast. People were seen holding flowers on their way to mourn Kim. Some used their hands to cover their teary faces when they walked near photographers in front of the embassy compound.
Several restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai associated with the DPRK were closed for business on Monday.
"We are closed for business today," a female employee at Begonia, a famous DPRK restaurant in Beijing, said in a low, slightly weeping voice after answering the phone in both Korean and Chinese.
When asked when the restaurant would resume operations, she said, "I don't know. You need to call again tomorrow."
At the Pyongyang Restaurant in Beijing, doors were locked and phone calls went unanswered.
China on Monday offered its "deep condolences" on the death of Kim Jong Il.
"We are shocked to learn that the DPRK's top leader comrade Kim Jong Il passed away and we hereby express our deep condolences on his passing and send our sincere regards to the people of the DPRK," China's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.
"We believe the people of the DPRK will definitely be able to turn sorrow into strength and remain united in order to continuously push forward the socialist cause of the DPRK," he said.
At the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday evening, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met with Pak Myong Ho, charge d'affaires of the DPRK Embassy in Beijing.
Yang said comrade Kim Jong Il was a great party and state leader of the DPRK and had dedicated his entire life and rendered his immortal service to the DPRK's socialist revolution and construction.
The Chinese government and people are deeply saddened by the death of their "close friend" Kim Jong Il, who would be remembered forever by the Chinese people, he added.
Yang expressed the belief that the people of the DPRK would definitely remain united with the leadership of the WPK and comrade Kim Jong Un, turn their sorrow into strength, achieve new progress in socialist construction, and make new contributions to realizing the sustainable peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.