SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea's biggest political gathering in 30 years began Tuesday hours after leader Kim Jong Il appointed his youngest son as a military general in what was seen as part of a succession plan.
North Korean state TV said that the elder Kim was reappointed as general secretary of the Workers' Party at the delayed political gathering to elect the party's top leadership.
Hours before, state media announced that Kim Jong Un was promoted to army general, and observers were expecting the 20-something to be appointed to more key positions to groom him to succeed his father.
It was state media's first official mention of the young man.
Kim was reappointed as the party's general secretary, proof of the people's "expression of absolute support and trust" in him, a state TV announcer said in a broadcast monitored in Seoul.
The announcer added that a "crucial" development was under way but gave no further details.
Kim Jong Il himself took over leadership in 1994 when his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, died of heart failure in what was communism's first hereditary succession.
The question of who will take over from the authoritarian leader is important to regional security because of North Korea's active nuclear and missile programs and concerns of chaos in the case of upheaval in the impoverished country.
Very little is known about Kim Jong Un, believed to be 28 and schooled for several years under a pseudonym in Switzerland.