A senior North Korean party official has dismissed concerns about Kim Jong Un's readiness to lead, saying he spent years working closely with his late father and helped him make key policy decisions on economic and military affairs.
In the first interview with foreign journalists by a high-level North Korean official since Kim Jong Il's death on December 17, Politburo member and Kim family confidante Yang Hyong Sop said that North Koreans were in good hands with their young new leader. He emphasised an unbroken continuity from father to son which suggests a continuation of Kim Jong Il's key policies.
"We suffered the greatest loss in the history of our nation as a result of the sudden, unexpected and tragic loss of the great leader Kim Jong Il," he said in the interview at Mansudae Assembly Hall, seat of the North Korean legislative body, in Pyongyang.
"But still, we are not worried a bit," he added, "because we know that we are being led by comrade Kim Jong Un, who is fully prepared to carry on the heritage created by the great General Kim Jong Il."
Daily life in the capital has begun to return to normal a month after Kim's death, reportedly from a heart attack while riding on his private train.
The white mourning bouquets and massive portraits of the departed leader have been cleared from Pyongyang's main buildings and monuments.
The vast Kim Il Sung Square, where a sea of mourners converged after Kim's death, was quiet except for a few people who scurried quickly across the plaza.
In recent weeks, as North Koreans filled the capital's streets with their emotive mourning and the government-staged elaborate funeral proceedings, party and military officials moved quickly to install Kim's son as "supreme leader" of the people, party and military.
Kim Jong Un had been kept out of the public eye for most of his life before suddenly emerging as his father's heir only in September 2010. Though still in his 20s, he was quickly promoted to four-star general and named a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea.
But the new ruler's youth and quick ascension to power have raised questions in foreign capitals about how ready he is to inherit rule over the nation of 24 million with a nuclear programme as well chronic trouble feeding all its people.