North Korea’s Kim Jong Il has officially named his heavy-drinking, English-speaking 26-year-old son as the next leader.
North Korea’s military, party and government officials were informed that Kim Jong Un, the youngest of three, is in line to take the world’s first communist dynasty into a third generation, reports said.
The announcement was made following North Korea’s provocative nuclear test last week, South Korea’s Hankook Ilbo newspaper reported.
The son already is being hailed as “Commander Kim,” and North Koreans are learning the lyrics to a new song praising him as the next leader.
South Korean politician Park Jie-won said that the regime already is “pledging its allegiance to Kim Jong Un”.
The anointment comes at a time of mounting tensions over North Korea’s rocket launch and the nuclear test. The North also appears to be preparing to test-fire an array of medium- and long-range missiles as the world discusses how to rein in Pyongyang for its nuclear defiance.
Analysts say the sabre-rattling is part of a campaign to build unity and support for a successor to Kim Jong Il, who reportedly suffered a stroke last August. Kim has three sons but had not publicly named an heir to lead the nation of 24 million.
Kim, once pudgy and renowned for his love of cognac and gourmet meals, made his first state appearance since the reported stroke at the opening session of the new parliament on April 12. He was greyer, considerably thinner and limping slightly.
He is believed to want to name a successor by 2012 – the centenary of the birth of his father, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung – and the regime undertook a massive campaign last year to gear the country up for the 100th anniversary celebrations.
Many believe Jong Un might lead with the backing and guidance of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, a member of the all-powerful National Defence Commission who has strong military and political connections.
Little is known about Jong Un, the second son of former dancer Ko Yong Hi, who died of cancer in 2004.
He studied at the International School in Bern, Switzerland, in the 1990s and learned to speak English, German and French.
A classmate recalled him as timid and introverted but an avid skier and basketball player who was a big fan of action film star Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The eldest son, Jong Nam, 38, was considered the favourite to succeed his father until he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001. He reportedly told Japanese officials he wanted to visit Tokyo’s Disney resort.
Kim considers the middle son, Jong Chol, too effeminate for the job, according to reports.