, SEOUL, June 2 – Kim Jong-Il’s youngest son Jong-Un was educated overseas and is thought to like basketball, but he has been described as "the spitting image" of his father and experts say he could be a ruthless leader.
The 26-year-old is even more of an enigma than his father, whose iron fist has ruled the impoverished communist state since he inherited power from his own father Kim Il-Sung, who died in 1994.
Kim Jong-Un, who has reportedly been appointed as the eventual heir to the political dynasty, was born to the leader’s third wife, Ko Yong-Hi, who is believed to have died of breast cancer in 2004.
He was educated at an international school in Switzerland but has been shrouded in secrecy since his return.
Kenji Fujimoto, a former Japanese sushi chef for the North Korean leader, described Jong-Un in a memoir as a "chip off the old block, a spitting image of his father in terms of face, body shape and personality."
Little is known for sure about his character, but experts think he has traits in common with his father.
"Jong-Un is known to have the potential to become a strong, ruthless leader. He has a take-charge personality," Cheong Seong-Chang, a North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute, told AFP.
There has been intense speculation about who would succeed North Korea’s "Dear Leader" since he was reported to have suffered a stroke last August.
Kim, now 67, is thought to have since recovered and resumed most of his duties.
Kim Jong-Un’s nomination — first reported in January by South Korean media — was said at the time to be totally unexpected even among party leaders.
Analysts have said they previously assumed he was not in the running.
But speculation that he was being groomed as the country’s next leader mounted in April with reports that he had been assigned to a powerful national military body.
South Korea’s intelligence services have now received word that Kim has nominated Jong-Un to succeed him, a South Korean lawmaker briefed by intelligence officials said Tuesday.
Some analysts have seen second son Kim Jong-Chul as the favourite to take over. But Fujimoto said in the memoir that Kim thought of Jong-Chul as too feminine and unfit for leadership.
The eldest son — Jong-Nam, 37, who was born to a different mother — apparently spoiled his prospects of becoming leader after being deported from Japan in 2001 for trying to enter the country with a forged passport.