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Kim Kyong-hui’s husband is a Soviet-trained technocrat who was a rising star until he was demoted in early 2004, seen as a warning from his brother-in-law against cultivating too much influence.

Mr. Jang was brought back into the fold in 2006, and he has been gaining influence since then.

He heads the party’s administrative department and, more important, oversees the intelligence agency and other military-related institutions, according to the Sejong Research Institute, a security think tank in South Korea.

In June 2009, he was made a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission and is an alternate member of the Political Bureau.

He has strong ties to the military, with two brothers having served in high-level military posts, according to analysts.

Other key members:

• Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of North Korea’s parliament, often represents the country and is considered a nominal head of state. He is a member of the party’s Central Committee.

• Ri Yong-ho, vice marshal and chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, was promoted to vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission last year and is a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau.

Mr. Ri was close to Kim Jong-il and is said to have strong ties with Mr. Jang.

• Choe Yong-rim was promoted to premier last year. His family is said to have long-standing ties with the Kim family.

His daughter, Choe Son-hui, is a department director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Concerns about the post-Kim Jong-il era began mounting in 2008, when he disappeared from the public eye after suffering a stroke. North Korea began closing ranks in 2009 during the early stages of a movement to begin installing a successor.

The party’s Political Bureau, which had atrophied during much of Kim Jong-il’s “military first” rule, was restocked with loyal, mostly older cadres in 2010. The emphasis on the Kim family’s lineage and legitimacy to lead North Korea was promoted by state media.

In taking the dynasty into a third generation, Kim Jong-un faces the challenge of convincing his people and the outside world that he has the clout and connections to make up for his youth and inexperience.

He will be dealing with poverty, hunger, isolation and questions about the military’s support, but “he has no profile in the party, no profile in the military,” said Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Things could really come apart.”

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