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(LEAD) N. Korea unveils photo of heir apparent Kim Jong-un for first time

All Headlines 15:57 September 30, 2010

(ATTN: RECASTS first two paras, UPDATES with details, background in paras 3-8)

SEOUL, Sept. 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea released a photo of leader Kim Jong-il's mysterious third son and heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, for the first time Thursday, after elevating him this week to powerful ruling party posts in another strong sign that the regime is paving the way for the son to take over.

The photo, released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, showed the chubby son, clad in a black Maoist suit, posing for a camera along with leader Kim and other participants in the national convention of the ruling Workers' Party, the country's biggest political event in decades.

It marked the first released photo of a grown-up Kim Jong-un, believed to be 28 at most.

Thursday's release came two days after the convention in which the son was named a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party headed by his father, and a member of the party's Central Committee.

Earlier this week, leader Kim also gave the son the title of four-star general.

Kim Jong-un's rise marked Pyongyang's first step to officially put him in line to take over the family dynasty in what would be the second-ever hereditary transfer of power in communism. Kim Jong-il himself succeeded the throne from his father and late national founder Kim Il-sung after his death in 1994.

Little is known about Kim Jong-un, except that he was educated in Switzerland and a big fan of basketball. He is also said to resemble his father in appearance and personality. Photos of him have been extremely rare.

In moves apparently aimed at assisting the power transfer, leader Kim also made his 64-year-old sister a four-star general and a member of the party's Central Committee. Her husband, Jang Song-thaek, was also appointed a member of the Central Military Commission.

Jang is already a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, whose decisions have overridden most of those of any other organization in the country since Kim Jong-il seized power.

Leader Kim, 68, is believed to have anointed the junior Kim as a successor after reportedly suffering a stroke in the summer of 2008.

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