Kim Jong-un had been groomed for the North Korean leadership for less than a year and three months when his father suddenly died on Saturday. Kim junior made his first official appearance at an extraordinary party congress on Sept. 28 last year. It has been only three years since he was tapped as the heir in January 2009.
Kim Jong-il by contrast had 20 years to consolidate his position when his father finally died in 1994, gradually assuming greater responsibility.
Kim Jong-un therefore needed to concentrate on getting a grip fast on a few selected areas and spent most of his time trying to gain control of the military and the security forces.
The first place Kim Jong-un inspected with his father, after his official debut was the 851st Unit, a missile base in Anbyon, Kangwon Province, said a Unification Ministry official. "Afterwards, his visits were concentrated on the regime's key agencies such as the State Security Department and the People's Internal Security Forces."
This is borne out by his public activities. Since his official debut last year, he made 134 public appearances, all with his father on so-called on-the-spot guidance tours, according to the Unification Ministry. Forty one of them were to military and security agencies (30.6 percent); 36 to economic organizations; 13 public events, and 44 others including shows and performances. During the same period, Kim senior made 148 public appearances, of which economic agencies accounted for 62 or 41.9 percent.
The second most important area for Kim Jong-un was diplomacy. In August last year, before he made his official debut, he accompanied his father as an unlisted member of the entourage to northeast China and met Chinese President Hu Jintao, according to sources.
On Oct. 10 the same year he sat beside Kim Jong-il in talks with Chinese Politburo heavyweight Zhou Yongkang, who visited the North on the 65th anniversary of the Workers Party. Since then, he has attended all his father's meetings with foreign dignitaries, including with Lao President Choummaly Sayasone on Sept. 23.
"According to intelligence reports, Kim Jong-il hurriedly trained his son because he wasn't sure when he would die, but he slowed down this year because he became more confident about his health," a South Korean security official said. "That Kim Jong-il held on to power until the last moment will have a negative effect on his son."