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2 Jun, 2009 18:25

North Korea leader announces his son as successor – media

The secretive North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, has named his youngest son as his successor, according to South Korean media reports.

According to the sources, the reins will be passed on to 25-year-old, Kim Jong-Un.

South Korea’s Hankook Ilbo newspaper reported that the announcement was sent after North Korea’s recent nuclear test on May 25.

The One – who is he?

The only credible picture of the possible heir to the North Korean leadership was taken more than a decade ago.

Very little is known about Kim Jong-Un, even by the standards of this secretive state.

"He studied in Switzerland, but this was his secondary education. He’s now 25. There are reports that he graduated from the military academy in Pyongyang. He is described as Kim’s favorite, and is “just like his father” – both in appearance and explosive temper,” says Evgeny Kim from the Centre for Korean Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The two older sons have apparently yielded to the destructive influence of the west.

Kim’s oldest son fell out of favor after he tried to go to Disneyland in Japan on a false passport.

The middle son reportedly attended an Eric Clapton rock concert in Germany.

Despite the media frenzy, experts underline that Kim Jong-Un is only a possible heir. Others simply call it a newspaper hoax.

“Such rumors have been around for a while. Everybody’s waiting for him [Kim Jong-Il] to announce his successor. The news is based on South Korean intelligence, so we cannot call it fact,” says Aleksandr Vorontsov from the Institute of the Asian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

And South Korea’s intelligence doesn’t have a source of its own at the higher levels of power, Evgeny Kim adds.

“Most of the time their predictions are not confirmed. Satellite pictures are as accurate as they can get,” he said.

Why now?

The news broke soon after North Korea sent tremors of condemnation all over the world with its nuclear test and a long-range missile launch.

Some believe the tests were aimed at solidifying power ahead of announcing the heir.

“This is not linked to domestic affairs; rather they want the United States to change its policy towards North Korea. They had a lot of hopes for Obama’s administration. On her Asian tour in April, Hillary Clinton called the country “a tyranny” and she did nothing to show that the current U.S. position is any different from that of George [W.] Bush. The U.S. hasn’t sent one signal to North Korea that it wants to improve ties,” Evgeny Kim explains.

The Korean leader has long been expected to name a successor after he reportedly had a stroke last August.

But such a young heir might be a problem for a society that defers to its elders.

“He lacks experience. We know Kim Jong-Il was groomed for twenty years by his father to become a leader. He went through all the levels of power, from the lowest rank; worked in all possible spheres,” Aleksandr Vorontsov says.

If it’s true, the 25-year-old is likely to have to learn how to run the parade.