Seoul, South Korea North Korea's Kim Jong Il - reclusive, eccentric and mercurial - has revealed little about who might succeed him as leader.
Kim, 66, has had at least four children with three women, but none has emerged as the obvious candidate to take the world's first communist hereditary dynasty into a third generation.
Kim was absent from Tuesday's celebration to mark North Korea's 60th anniversary, fueling speculation that he was gravely ill.
The eldest son, 37-year-old Jong Nam, was long considered Kim's favorite - until he tried to sneak into Japan using a fake Dominican passport in a bid to get to Tokyo's Disney resort in 2001.
His second son, 27-year-old Jong Chol, is believed to have spent part of his school years in Switzerland. He reportedly was appointed to a high position in the Korean Workers' Party last year, making him a likely candidate.
But Kenji Fujimoto, who says he was private sushi chef to Kim for 13 years, claims the "Dear Leader" believes the second son is too soft and instead favors his youngest son, Jong Un, 24, who apparently looks and acts just like his father.
However, none has been pushed forward publicly as the crown prince of the impoverished Stalinist nation founded 60 years ago.
Kim took over at the 1994 death of his father, Kim Il Sung, who was known as the "Great Leader," after being groomed for the post for 20 years.
"Trying to figure out North Korea politics ... is like playing with a ouija board. There's no set line of succession like we saw in 1994," said Dr. Michael G. Kulma of the Asia Society in New York.
And the lack of a clear successor in a nation that has made a cult of the two men raises the question of what will happen to the world's most isolated country if Kim dies suddenly at a time of sensitive international nuclear negotiations.