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Associated Press
Visitors stand beside banners hanging on the wire fence, wishing for reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of the Panmunjom (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea's state media today called Kim Jong Il's heir the head of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, which would give Kim Jong Un power over one of the country's highest decision-making bodies more than a week after his father's death.

The reference in a commentary by the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper came as two groups of prominent South Koreans with ties to Pyongyang traveled to North Korea to pay respects to Kim Jong Il, who is being mourned by millions in his homeland.

North Korean soldiers, Rodong Sinmun said, are upholding a slogan urging them to dedicate their lives to protect the committee headed by Kim Jong Un. The slogan means that Kim will likely be appointed as the party's general secretary, one of the country's highest positions.

North Korea is in official mourning for Kim until after a memorial Thursday.