Reporting from Seoul — Kim Jong Eun, newly anointed as North Korea's next leader, is quickly learning one of the oldest axioms of power: Heavy lies the crown.
Just days after tens of thousands cheered as the youngest son of Kim Jong Il stood on a podium with his ailing father at a lavish military parade in Pyongyang, bad press is already besieging the future ruler.
In the first public signs of discord, Kim Jong Eun's older half-brother has questioned the family's hereditary transfer of power. Kim Jong Nam told Japan's TV Asahi that he is "against third-generation succession," adding, "I think there were internal factors."
Not only that, but the construction of a residential estate for Kim Jong Eun adjacent to that of his father's has seriously strained relations between local civilians and soldiers tasked with building the project, a humanitarian website reported Wednesday.
Because of ongoing food shortages, many of the 12,000 soldiers assigned to building the villa have resorted to raiding local farms for food, angering growers.
"Farmers have been powerless to stop the onslaught which has resulted in severely damaged fields, and those who reported grievances were simply ignored or rebuked by military commanders," said an Internet posting by the Research Institute for North Korean Society.
Inside the isolated regime, no one knows how much, if any, of the media clamor is reaching Kim Jong Eun. But for a young leader believed to be in his late 20s, whose existence was long kept secret, the stories suggest the stretch of the new public identity the youngest Kim must now assume, analysts say.
"I would imagine from his youth that Kim Jong Eun is going to have a serious learning curve ahead of him," said Jennifer Lind, a Dartmouth political scientist who specializes in East Asian international relations. "Even if you grow up surrounded by power and thinking you have a chance of being an heir, he lacks experience. Given he's so young, he hasn't had any serious responsibility within the regime."
On Sunday, Kim Jong Eun appeared with his father at the celebrations marking the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party, waving to the crowd and saluting troops. The appearance came two weeks after he was named to a top political post and promoted to four-star general.
Within days, 39-year-old Kim Jong Nam, the oldest of three brothers who had been in the running to assume the reins of the secretive nation, told reporters he wasn't interested in the post, but opposed how the third-generation power hand off was carried out.
Kim Jong Nam, who spends much of his time in Japan and China, spoke to Japanese reporters before Sunday's coming out parade for his brother. But the reports were aired internationally only in recent days.
"I have no regrets about it," Kim Jong Nam said. "I wasn't interested in it and I don't care."
One North Korea watcher in Seoul said the eldest brother's comments amounted to the type of sour grapes typical of family disputes.
"If he's the chosen one, a third-generation hereditary hand-over of power is OK, but if it's his half-brother, it's not," Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University near Seoul, said of the comments.
The construction of Kim Jong Eun's new villa was begun in late July. Soon after, nearby farmers began complaining.
When farm officials requested that commanders assume responsibility for their soldiers' behavior, they were beaten, according to the humanitarian group's report. "Although complaints ceased after this incident, news of this mishap has spread throughout the region resulting in civilian mistrust of soldiers who are believed to be connected to the suspect leadership of Kim Jong Eun."
Analysts say it's unclear whether either Kim Jong Il or his youngest son have been told of the issue.
"We have so little insight into the inner workings of this regime. All we know is that the third son has been named to power," said Lind.
"We don't know who's happy about the appointment or who is upset. Whose promises were broken and whose back was stabbed, not to mention the scheming relatives. How do the passed over feel about being passed over?"
But as time goes on, one thing is clear, experts say: North Korea's newest leader will need the backing of the leaders of the regime's million-man army to stay in power.
"That's the key — how does the military feel?" said Lind. "In the long run, they're the ones who are going to keep Kim Jong Eun in power."
Ethan Kim of The Times' Seoul Bureau contributed to this report.