Details emerging Thursday about Kim Jong Il's burial ceremony, in which his body is expected to be driven around Pyongyang, point to one of the late leader's closest military confidantes becoming a key power behind Kim Jong Eun.
Experts say Vice-Marshal Ri Yong-Ho may be the key to the corpulent young Kim pulling off an ambitious dynastic succession for which many believe he is ill-prepared.
Ri was listed fourth on the list released by North Korea of Kim Jong Il's funeral committee, well ahead of the husband-and-wife team tipped by many to form the 27-year-old's key support base, Jang Song-Thaek and Kim Kyong-Hui.
Narushige Michishita, of Tokyo's Graduate Institute for Strategic Policy Studies, said Ri -- who is increasingly pictured alongside Kim Jong Eun on official visits -- offered the young leader a bridge to a key power base, North Korea's military.
"Ri Yong-Ho is really the most important person because of the army-first policy, and the support of the military for Kim Jong Eun will be the key factor," he said.
"The same thing happened for Kim Jong Il when he took over from his father. [Former defense minister] Oh Jin-Wu played that role for Kim Jong Il."
Under Kim Jong Il, Ri shared the vice-chairmanship of the central military commission with Kim Jong Eun.
He is also chief of the general staff of the Korean People's Army.
Still, the likely power structure is far from clear-cut and the young leader is also likely to depend on Jang and Kim, who were pictured on the steps immediately above and behind Kim Jong Eun in what's thought to be the last picture of his father alive.
They have the added cachet of having blood ties to the leader-in-waiting, as Kim is the youngster's aunt. Ri and Jang are thought to enjoy close ties, although as always inside North Korea such details are surmised rather than ever confirmed.
Meanwhile, North Koreans who found themselves in China at the time of Kim Jong Il's death flocked to Pyongyang-bound trains and planes to ensure they were seen to be paying proper respects to the departed leader.
The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said trains from the Chinese city of Dandong were crammed and buses were being pressed into service to ferry mourners across the Yalu River to North Korea.