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By Heesun Wee, CNBC

As the world unravels North Korea's self-proclaimed hydrogen bomb test, the timing ahead of ruler Kim Jong Un's birthday this week and a major government gathering in May suggest a ruler trying to reassert his authority amid increased scrutiny — including possible, internal pressure from the ruling elite.

Kim is believed to be his early 30s and succeeded his late father Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011. Longtime Korea experts wondered if a smooth succession was possible, and whether a young man with essentially little military or leadership experience could rise to power.