|The only photograph known to exist of Kim Jong-un as a child iwas taken when he was 11 years old|
Little is known about Kim Jong-un, the man apparently chosen as heir to North Korea’s dynasty.
The 26-year-old was educated in Switzerland, but until the last year of the life of his father, Kim Jong-il, he has not been known to hold any formal office in the North Korean government.
Because of his youth in a country which traditionally values seniority Kim Jong-un had been thought to be out of the running to take up his father’s leadership of North Korea, with analysts concentrating on his half-brother Kim Jong-nam and older brother, Kim Jong-chol.
But a report in South Korea’s Yonhap news agency in January sparked speculation that Kim Jong-un could be named as heir.
The chatter about his possible succession increased after Kim Jong-un’s reported appointment to the National Defence Commission.
The commission is the country’s most important government body, with Kim Jong-il as chairman.
Leonid Petrov, an expert on North Korea at The Australian National University in Canberra, told Al Jazeera that Kim Jong-un was likely to continue his father’s policies.
“In a Confucian society the youngest son is the least powerful,” he said.
“He is going to be loyal to his father. He is going to be obedient to his elder brothers”
“He is going to be loyal to his father. He is going to be obedient to his elder brothers.
“He doesn’t have a support base among military or public security. He is going to do what his father suggests for him to do.
“He is going to follow the policy both domestically and internationally, inter-Korean policy as well,” he said.
Kim Jong-un is youngest son of Kim Jong-il and his late third wife Ko Yong-hui.
In 2003, a Japanese man writing under the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto wrote in his book titled “I was Kim Jong-il’s Chef” that Kim Jong-un was his father’s favourite.
The death of Ko Yong-hui in 2004 appeared to put the younger Kim behind his half-brother Jong-nam in the succession race.
However, Kim Jong-nam’s deportation from Japan in May 2001, and the middle brother – Kim Jong-chol’s – apparent “unmanliness” greatly improved Jong-un’s chances.
It is said that Kim Jong-un shares some of his father’s health problems and he is reported to be suffering from diabetes and heart disease due to a lack of exercise.
Like his father, Kim Jong-un is said to enjoy popular culture, and is apparently a fan of US basketball.
Petrov suggested that Kim Jong-un’s European education could offer some hope for rapprochment with the international community after years of isolation.
“He was educated in North Korea and in Switzerland and although he didn’t have much exposure to his peers he is still probably more open-minded to the world and can be lured into some new arrangements for the Korean peninsula.
“He has travelled a lot. He has met foreign people … His curiosity towards foreign proposals might lure the country out of its shell and open some avenues for productive and efficient dialogue,” he said.