North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's absence from the public eye since April 11, coupled with reports about his ill-health owing to a major heart surgery, has fuelled the speculations about a leadership crisis in the country.
The Kim dynasty, referred to in North Korea as the Mount Paektu Bloodline, is a three-generation lineage of North Korean leadership descended from the country's first leader, Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-un, 36, succeeded his father Kim Jong-il in 2011.
Is it the end of Kim's line in North Korea ?
Since the inception of the Kim dynasty, North Korea had a clear-cut line of leaders in waiting. Following the death of the country's founder and first leader Kim Il Sung in 1994, his son Kim Jong Il was chosen to rule the country.
Similarly, after his death in 2011, his son Kim Jong-un took over as North Korea's supreme leader. Unlike other countries where in the event of a president's death, the vice-president steps in, North Korea has no such ruling.
Kim's older brother Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated in February 2017 in a chemical attack in Malaysia, and his uncle Jang Song-Thaek was killed reportedly on Kim's orders in 2013.
Stating that a natural power struggle would ensue following Kim's death NK News speculated that in the event of no clear-cut successor, one of the top Workers' Party members could take over the reins in the event of Kim Jong-un's death.
Ruling out two of the three members of the Politburo Standing Committee, who are very old, the news site believes that Chairman of the Organization and Guidance Department Choe Ryong Haem to be the topmost and most realistic candidate to replace Kim.
Is Kim Yo-Jong next in line ?
Following the reports of Kim Jong-un being gravely ill, the focus has once again shifted to his younger sister Kim Yo-Jong as the possible successor in the event of death of North Korean leader.
Kim Yo-Jong shot into spotlight last month, after she called South Korea a 'frightened barking dog' in a public statement, condemning the neighbouring nation for protesting against North Korea's live-fire military exercise. She was appointed as the first vice-department director of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in January.
Speaking to The Guardian, Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, said: "By having someone like Kim Yo-jong – who has been a dovish figure towards the South and acting as a soft and friendly messenger – issue such a strong statement condemning the current government, the North is raising its pressure."
Believed to be the person who helped Kim Jong-un create a cult personality similar to his grandfather, Kim Yo-Jong is one of his closest advisors who represented the North Korean leader during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics held in South Korea in 2018.