North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has nominated his third son as successor and informed the ruling communist party leadership of his choice, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday.
The nomination of Mr Kim Jong Un, 24, was totally unexpected even among party leaders, Yonhap said, quoting 'well-informed intelligence sources'. Analysts have said previously Jong Un was not in the running.
Mr Kim Jong Un was born to the leader's third wife, Ms Ko Yong Hi, who reportedly died of breast cancer in 2004. He was educated at an international school in Switzerland but holds no key official posts.
Senior party officials were surprised at the leader's decision, Yonhap said, adding Mr Kim might have pushed ahead due to anxiety about his health.
Mr Jeung Young Tae of the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) said analysts should closely watch a March 8 parliamentary election to see whether Jong Un is appointed to the powerful National Defence Commission. “If that's the case, we can safely say North Korea has started grooming Jong Un as the heir-apparent to his father,” he told AFP.