PYONGYANG, North Korea — A top North Korean official confirmed Friday to broadcaster APTN that Kim Jong Il's youngest son will succeed him as the next leader of the reclusive communist nation.
In the first public confirmation of the succession plan, Yang Hyong Sop, a top official in North Korea's ruling party, referred to Kim Jong Un as "the young general" during an exclusive interview with APTN. Yang said the nation's people were honored to serve him as their leader.
He would be the third successive generation of his family to lead of the nation of 24 million. His grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founded the nation in 1948 on policy of self-reliance called "juche" and built a cult of personality around him and his son, Kim Jong Il.
"Our people take pride in the fact that they are blessed with great leaders from generation to generation," Yang said.
"Our people are honored to serve the great President Kim Il Sung and the great leader Kim Jong Il," he added. "Now we also have the honor of serving young Gen. Kim Jong Un."
Yang is a member of the political bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, which is the country's parliament.
Kim Jong Un had been virtually unknown outside North Korea before he made his public debut last week, when he was promoted to four-star general and vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea's central military commission. That backed up analyst speculation that he had been chosen to succeed his ailing father as eventual ruler of the impoverished authoritarian regime, which pursues active nuclear and missile programs.
The world got its first real glimpse of Kim Jong Un last week when his photo was published in state media and he was shown on television at a Workers' Party convention, the country's most significant political gathering in 30 years. Yang's comments are the first public confirmation that Kim Jong Un will eventually take over as leader.
Kim Jong Il took over as leader after his father died in 1994 in what was the communist world's first hereditary transfer of power.
Yang's comments came two days before North Korea celebrates the 65th anniversary of its communist Workers' Party.
Workers were preparing Pyongyang's central Kim Il Sung Square, the expected venue for Sunday's festivities, APTN footage showed. Red flags proclaiming the anniversary were visible in the city.
"What I can tell you is that comrade Kim Jong Il and comrade Kim Jong Un will lead us to victory with their wise guidance, and our people are well aware of the significance of the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea," Yang said.