North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's second son has assumed a key official post, fueling speculation that he will be groomed as the next leader in the country's communist dynasty, a report said yesterday.
Kim Jong-chol, 27, had recently become vice chief of the ruling Korean Workers' Party's organization and guidance department, the Mainichi Shimbun said, quoting several unnamed sources close to the North Korean administration.
Kim's succession is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the world's only communist dynasty and is a constant subject of speculation for the outside world.
The Mainichi quoted one source as saying Jong-chol was likely to be officially named successor when he reaches 32, the same age as Kim Jong-il was when he publicly emerged as heir to his late father, state founder Kim Il-sung.
Kim Jong-il, 65, has three known sons, Jong-nam, Jong-chol and Jong-un, by two women.
The eldest, Jong-nam, was deported from Japan in 2001 for trying to enter on a forged Dominican Republic passport.
He reportedly fell out of favor over the incident and has since been the target of two assassination attempts, South Korean media reported, citing intelligence sources.