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Kim Ki-nam heads the state propaganda apparatus and is likely to have been behind the flurry of New Year’s editorials released by the Korea Central News Agency.

Mr. Choe has been a core figure in Pyongyang’s scientific and technological development, which may place him in the spotlight during 2012.

Michael Breen, author of “Kim Jong-il: North Korea’s Dear Leader,” said the transition appears to be “going quite well,” as Kim Jong-un is “obviously being advised.”

“He holds himself with a certain gravitas. When you look at the generals beside him, their body language is not suggesting that they don’t accept him - far from it,” he said.

Regardless of who the core figures may be, North Korea is unlikely to change policy course in any significant manner.

“I think the world is going to try to court the new leadership and going to be disappointed, as the new leadership is not going to be doing anything but what it has been doing until now,” Mr. Breen said.

“The source of legitimacy is the Kims. They are bound by the way the regime is, and the survival interests of the elite support them.”

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.