Kim Yong-nam, the perennial president of North Korea's Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and ceremonial head of state, may retire at the first meeting of the newly-elected assembly on Wednesday.
A source on Monday said Kim, who turned 89 this year, could retire after 16 years in office since his speech is starting to slur and movement has become difficult.
The source added there is a good chance of a major reshuffle following his retirement.
Possible successors are Kim Yang-gon, who heads the Workers Party's United Front Department which deals with inter-Korean matters, and Vice Premier Kang Sok-ju.
"We can't rule out that leader Kim Jong-un will also assume the constitutional title of head of state as part of efforts to consolidate his grip on power," said Yoo Dong-yeol of the Korean Institute of Liberal Democracy.
But a government official here said, "It's true that Kim Yong-nam is old, but he is still believed to be capable of conducting his duties. We'll have to wait until the Supreme People's Assembly meeting to confirm any speculation."