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5 key people to watch in North Korea

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This undated photo is believed to show North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's son, Kim Jong-un in Berne, Switzerland.

Yonhap/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

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2. Kim Jong-un

Although Kim Jong-un is assumed somehow to be in line to succeed his father, neither his name nor his photograph have appeared in public in North Korea.

Kim Jong-un, who is 27, might be chosen as a front for others. He is the second son of Kim Jong-il and Ko Young-hee, a dancer who passed away in 2004. It is reported widely that he got a secondary education at a private school in Bern, Switzerland, where he was apparently a fan of the National Basketball Association. He is said to speak English, French, and German, and to be a hard competitor.

When he returned to North Korea, he was educated at Kim Il-sung University, named for his long-ruling grandfather, and has reportedly been given a mid-level post as an “inspector” at the National Defense Commission, the center of power in North Korea that is chaired by his father, Kim Jong-il.

Though he is thought to have been educated abroad, he is also considered to be an inexperienced, untested young man. Kim Jong-un may become a secretary of the Workers’ Party, of which Kim Jong-il is general secretary, or be given a minor post to suggest he’s training for bigger things.

If named as his father's successor, he will inherit a nation with nuclear weapons and a plethora of problems: economy, hunger, and tense relations with South Korea and the US.

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