But the 20-something heir to the North Korean leadership quickly grew into the role, and Korea watchers who were once skeptical of his rule now expect him to remain in power indefinitely -- assuming his health holds. It's a marked change from the early days, when Joseph Yun, former US special representative for North Korea, remembers Kim as an object of ridicule. "For a while, there was so much negative caricature of Kim Jong Un in South Korea and in China, almost making fun of him. It was very difficult for the international public -- South Korea and America -- to take him seriously," he recalled.
That view quickly changed as the young Kim displayed a ruthlessness and decisiveness that belied his age.