North Korea's Kim Jong Il made his elusive youngest son a four-star general in a major promotion seen Tuesday as confirmation that he is slated to become the country's next leader.
The announcement appeared in state media hours before a historic Workers' Party meeting Tuesday where Kim, 68 and apparently in deteriorating health, was expected to grant son Kim Jong Un and other family members top posts in plans to take the communist dynasty into a third generation.
It was state media's first mention of Kim Jong Un, who has remained so well hidden from the outside world that not even his face or exact age can be confirmed. He is believed to be 27 or 28, and is said to have been schooled in Switzerland and educated at Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang.
However, it is clear that "Kim Jong Un's promotion is the starting point for his formal succession to power," said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University.