It's hard to know what to make of the speculation that Kim Jong Il has named his son Kim Jong-un to succeed him as the maximum leader of North Korea.
On one hand, the Washington Post reported today that the 26-year old heir apparent is a Michael Jordan fan. So he evidently has good taste in basketball players.
But he is, after all, the little known scion of an oppressive, outlaw regime which is developing and proliferating nuclear weapons technology, providing a lot of reasons for concern.
NPR's Anthony Kuhn reported on All Things Considered today that North Korea's military appears to be coalescing around the younger Kim, which is all that really matters.
An excerpt of his report:
There are few countries left where a ruler can say he has the right to rule because his father and grandfather did.
But Kim Jaebum, professor emeritus at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul says that's the prevailing logic in Pyongyang.
KIM JAEBUM: "This is a kind of inherited philosophy, that the Great Leader founded the country and the party, and his son was an heir, so that the third generation has a kind of legitimacy."
South Korean media today quoted lawmakers briefed by intelligence officials. They said that following last week's nuclear test, Pyongyang ordered officials to pledge loyalty to Kim Jong-un, third son of the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il and grandson of the "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung. Professor Kim says the orders seem to be having an effect.
KIM JAEBUM: "The military are very anxious about competing among themselves to show their loyalty to the family."
So why Kim Jong-un? Well, Kim Jong-il felt his eldest son was unreliable, and his second son was too effeminate. We know this thanks to Kenji Fujimoto, the pen name of a Japanese man who wrote a book about his stint as the Kims' personal sushi chef.
As you can see, North Korea leadership-watching is a murky business, full of unconfirmed reports and questionable sourcing. Anyway, Kim Jong-un is believed to have been educated in Switzerland, where he learned to ski, and speak English, French and German.
The problem, says Stanford University Koreas expert Daniel Sneider, is that in his mid twenties, the young Kim is still too inexperienced, compared to his father.
DANIEL SNEIDER: "Kim Jong-il had a long period of time serving in senior positions in the party apparatus, in the government apparatus, so he established his legitimacy as a successor over a period of time."
But the elder Kim made arrangements for this in April, getting his son onto the National Defense Commission. This de facto ruling council is headed by Chang Song-taek, Kim Jong-il's brother in law, who could serve as a regent until the young Kim matures.