PYONGYANG, North Korea -- The Illustrious General has had a busy year.
Since making his international debut a year ago yesterday, Kim Jong Un has served as military strategist, political statesman and trusted deputy to his father, leader Kim Jong Il.
The newly minted four-star general, believed in his late 20s, is widely credited at home with orchestrating a deadly artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island that nearly brought the foes to the brink of another war. He appears regularly with his father at marquee events and accompanies him on inspection trips to farms and factories, visits now commemorated with plaques bearing his name.
Officials even say Jong Un, who was on hand for a recent state visit by Laos' president, has been entrusted with full leadership of the country while his father has made extended trips to China and Russia over the last year.
At least that's the official portrait emerging of the young man who in just one year has cemented his status as North Korea's next leader.
The inner workings of North Korea's political leadership and mythmaking have never been easy for the outside world to fathom or confirm. Information is tightly controlled, both to the people at home and to the wider world. Dissent and opposition carry the price of forced labor or execution, according to human rights groups and the U.S. State Department.
Still, North Korea has made substantial progress in building up the cult of personality surrounding Jong Un, and a biography and other top government and political posts can be expected over the coming months, says Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor at Korea University in South Korea.