The third son of North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il appears well on his way to succeeding his father, in name if not in style and substance. He will lead the committee in charge of the funeral on Dec. 28 and will then be referred to as “successor.”
Just when he will assume the real titles held by his father is a matter of intense speculation. Past precedent suggests a wait of as long as three years, according to Korean custom. For now, Kim Jong-un, 28 or 29 years old, faces the prospect of manipulation by high-ranking relatives and generals.
“He’s very much an untested quantity,” says Shim Jae-hoon, a political analyst in Seoul. His lone qualification, according to Mr. Shim, is that “he symbolizes the house of Kim” – a reference to his grandfather, long-ruling “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, and his father.
Kim Jong-un has had an elite education. He studied at international schools in Bern, Switzerland, where he is said to have been a fan of the country's national basketball team. He attended Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang, but is believed to have had private tutoring and was never reported actually attending a class on campus. He also reportedly studied computer science, again privately, and advocated the introduction of cell phones into North Korea, now possessed by a million or so subscribers on a network provided by Orascom, an Egyptian company.
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