SEOUL -- South Korea's spy agency believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Il leans toward having his second son succeed him as head of the communist country, a news report said yesterday.
Kim favors 24-year-old Jong Chol because of his circumspect character, the newspaper Chosun Ilbo said, citing unidentified lawmakers who were briefed Friday by the National Intelligence Service.
The eldest son, Jong Nam, 34, who reportedly angered his father in 2001 by trying to enter Japan on a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland, is out of favor and the third son, Jong Un, 21, is considered too young, the paper said.
There was no comment from the intelligence agency.
Kim Jong Il, 63, succeeded to the leadership in 1994 after the death of his father, North Korea's founding ruler Kim Il Sung. It was communism's first hereditary transfer of power.
Speculation has grown recently that Kim might designate his successor this year.
On Tuesday, Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency said an announcement of the next leader could come sometime this year as North Korea marks the 60th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party The report cited an unidentified diplomat in the North's capital, Pyongyang.
Kim was named heir apparent to his father at a Workers' Party meeting in 1974 at age 32.