He is 27 or 28, depending on who you believe, loves Jean-Claude van Damme films and basketball, and no one is certain what he looks like.

Yet Kim Jong-un could next week be anointed as the new leader of North Korea, the world’s most secretive country.

He is the youngest son of current leader Kim Jong-il, whose hardline communist regime was named alongside Iraq and Iran by the U.S. eight years ago as part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ – countries accused of sponsoring terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction.

The eventual succession of Kim Jong-un, who is said to be fluent in English and German, is expected to be signalled next week.

The ruling Korean Workers’ Party announced yesterday that its biggest convention since 1980 – when Kim Jong-il was himself anointed as successor to his father, North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il-sung – would be held this coming Tuesday to select its ‘supreme leadership body’.

Analysts say Kim Jong-un is likely to be given a party post, and even though it may be only a minor role, any appointment would signal the start of the succession process.

Little is known about Kim Jong-un, whose mother, Ko Yong-hui, is thought to have been Kim Jong-il’s favourite mistress before her death.

She is said to have doted on her son, calling him Morning Star King and Kim Jong-un was educated in part at the English-language International School of Berne, Switzerland.

South Korean intelligence officers believe the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, has launched a propaganda campaign promoting him with songs and poems.

He is already being hailed as the Young General and Our Commander, with soldiers and workers pledging allegiance to him on his birthday in January.

Badges bearing his image are said to have been circulating among senior ruling party officials.

Kim Jong-il took control of North Korea when his father died of heart failure in 1994 in communism’s first hereditary transfer of power but he is now 68 and reportedly in poor health two years after suffering a stroke.

However, Kim Jong-un – rumoured to be the ‘spitting image’ of his father and to share his ruthless streak – also shares some of his health problems. Despite his relative youth, he is reported to have diabetes and heart disease due to lack of exercise.

His half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, 39, had been favourite to take over until he caused a diplomatic row by being caught entering Japan in 2001 on a fake passport, telling officials he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

In the event Kim Jong-il dies suddenly, his brother-in-law Jang Songtaek – who is expected to be promoted to a senior role during next week’s meeting – should act as regent until Jong-un is fully ready to take over./Mailonline/Hast