North Korea set to anoint next leader

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The Independent Online

North Korea's ruling party will hold a conference to elect its supreme leadership board, according to the country's official KCNA news agency.

The agency gave no details of the agenda of the meeting, to be held on 28 September, but it is expected to pick a new leadership and anoint an heir as Kim Jong-il's health deteriorates.

Mr Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, and has reportedly accelerated plans for his succession. His youngest son, Kim Jong-un, is likely to be given an official title at the Workers' Party conference. Born in either late 1983 or early 1984, Mr Jong-un only recently moved into the frame as a possible successor, following his appointment to the powerful National Defence Commission. Only one image of Mr Jong-un is known to exist, taken when he was 11 years old.

He was educated in Switzerland but avoided Western influences, returning home when not in school and dining with the North Korean ambassador.

There has also been much speculation that the man being lined up as the real "power behind the throne" is Chang Song-taek – the husband of Kim Jong-il's sister and director of the administrative department of the North Korean Workers' Party.