Kim Jong-un is going to assume greater powers with the end of the three-year mourning period for his father, but analysts warn that mounting pressures - domestic and international - could hasten North Korea's collapse.
March-pasts, eulogies and declarations of unswerving faith in North Korea's young dictator have commemorated the third anniversary of the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.
Events in Pyongyang and around the country also marked the end of the official three-year mourning period for a man hailed as "The Dear Leader," with international attention now focused on how Kim Jong-un will carry on the legacy of the only dynastic leadership in the history of communism.
"Kim Jong-un has been following in the traditions of Korean Confucianism by waiting three years after his father's death, showing piety to his father's memory," Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University and an expert on North Korean affairs, told DW.
"With the end of the mourning period today, Kim Jong-un is able to officially carry out state policies and seek to travel overseas to meet foreign leaders," he said. "If he does not now do that, then it means that he is either worried about unrest at home while he is away or that he is not welcome outside North Korea.
"Either outcome will suggest that he is still weak and has not been able to consolidate his power base," Shigemura said.
North Korean state media has issued dozens of reports that are fulsome in their praise of Kim Jong-il, who died suddenly at the age of 69 in December 2011. The Rodong Sinmun newspaper ran a large picture of Kim on its front page, with much of the inside also devoted to articles in praise of his achievements.
The KCNA news agency commented on his efforts to "kindle a torch of fresh revolutionary upsurge in the economic field" and compared him to his father and the revered founder of the nation, Kim Il-sung.
"Thanks to his ardent patriotism, energetic field guidance and devoted efforts, the DPRK grew stronger in national power," KCNA reported.
The agency also quoted foreign groups that expressed their admiration for the North Korean regime, with the Hannover Group for the Study of the Juche Idea quoted as saying that Kim made "undying contributions to the times and history through his tireless, energetic revolutionary ideas."
'Great Man' poem
Similar praise came from as far away as Vietnam, Mongolia, Ethiopia and Russia, where poet Lyudmila Abzeyeva wrote an ode titled "Comrade Kim Jong-il, the Great Man of the Century."
Kim Jong-un was scheduled to host a national ceremony to commemorate his father and to later visit the elaborate Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a museum on the outskirts of Pyongyang where both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were embalmed and perpetually lay in state.
The state media machine has also cranked up the tributes to the third member of the Kim dynasty to rule the world's most isolated state, reporting on Kim Jong-un's "victories" in the struggle against foreign powers and claiming that the era of the "great leader" is now fully under way.
Experts say that North Korea's propaganda ignores, however, the grinding poverty that afflicts the vast majority of people outside the elite circles of Pyongyang, the international embargo that is biting deep, the obsolescence and inefficiencies of industry and agriculture and a repressive political system that has seen tens of thousands sent to penal colonies for minor infractions, such as questioning an official policy.
Singly, these and more problems facing the regime might not be able to bring it down. Together, however, the system could fail or the North Korean people could rise up.
Watershed in the North
"Kim Jong-il's death was a watershed for the people of the North, and a second watershed was when Kim Jong-un had his uncle and close advisor, Jang Sang-thaek, arrested and executed," Jang Jin-sung, the official poet to the North Korean leadership until he defected to South Korea in 2004, told DW.
"Kim wanted to demonstrate the power that he wields, but by having Jang killed he showed the fallibility of the supreme family because he was simply doing what the system required of him," believes Jang, who now runs a dissident web site in Seoul and is under 24-hour armed guard.
"The public's image of the Kims has been shattered by Kim Jong-un's errors in the last three years and there are open discussions there now about him. He is not revered and not worshipped like his father and grandfather," Jang said. "I would give it a maximum of seven years before the regime collapses - and it could be a lot faster than that."
There are just too many tensions, too many pressures and too many groups that are seeking influence for the system as it is today to last, he added.
The concern, he said, is whether the regime-change is peaceful or violent.