SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (search) could soon name his successor to head the hard-line communist nation, a Russian news agency reported Tuesday.
The ruling Korean Workers' Party celebrates its 60th anniversary on Monday, and an announcement of the North's next leader could be timed around that event, an unidentified diplomatic official in Pyongyang told the ITAR-Tass news agency, which has a correspondent in the North Korean capital.
One option for Kim, 63, is to carry communism's first and only dynasty into the next generation of his family, which founded the Stalinist regime in 1948. Another option is to hand over the government — and its possible nuclear arsenal — to someone outside the family, such as a figure from the hard-line Korea People's Army.
The ITAR-Tass source said the decision could be made either at a closed party leadership meeting or a party congress, which would usually be announced a month in advance, ITAR-Tass reported. No plans for such a meeting have yet been made public.
Many analysts caution that North Korea (search) is such a reclusive society that any predictions amount to little more than speculation.
Kim has three sons and all of them have "approximately equal chances" of inheriting leadership of the reclusive state, according to ITAR-Tass.
In August 2004, Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at the independent Sejong Institute research center just outside Seoul, claimed Kim was likely within the next few years to anoint his son, Jong Chul, 22, as his successor.
Kim took over power after the 1994 death of his father, founding ruler Kim Il Sung. The elder Kim remains enshrined in the country's constitution as "eternal president" and the focus of a cult of personality.