North Korea's Kim Jong Il has revealed little about who might succeed him as leader.
Kim, 66, has had at least four children with three women, but none has emerged as the obvious candidate to take the world's first communist hereditary dynasty into a third generation.
The eldest son, 37-year-old Jong Nam, was long considered Kim's favorite – until he tried to sneak into Japan using a fake Dominican passport in a bid to get to Tokyo's Disney resort in 2001.
His second son, 27-year-old Jong Chol, is thought to have spent part of his school years in Switzerland. He reportedly was appointed to a high position in the Korean Workers' Party last year, making him a likely candidate.
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But Kenji Fujimoto, who says he was private sushi chef to Kim for 13 years, claims the “Dear Leader” believes the second son is too soft and instead favors his youngest son, Jong Un, 24, who apparently looks and acts just like his father.
However, none has been pushed forward publicly as the crown prince of the impoverished Stalinist nation founded 60 years ago.
Kim took over at the 1994 death of his father, Kim Il Sung, after being groomed for the post for 20 years.
“Trying to figure out North Korea politics … is like playing with a Ouija board. There's no set line of succession like we saw in 1994,” said Michael Kulma of the Asia Society in New York.
Kim Hak-sung, a political scientist at South Korea's Chungnam National University, predicts internal unrest if Kim is incapacitated or dead.
“Given that he hasn't anointed any of his sons as his successor, North Korea could be embroiled into internal confusion over the next year,” he said.
Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korea expert at Korea University, predicted that top military leaders will collectively run the North if Kim is as ill as reported.
“The military would do the crisis management,” he said.