SEOUL - Photos published Friday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's younger sister apparently wearing a wedding ring sparked speculation she has married a son of Kim's top aide, cementing the close-knit cadre that control the reclusive state.
The photos of the young supremo and his sister, taken during a visit to the newly-built Pyongyang Baby Home and Orphanage on January 1, show Kim Yo-Jong, believed to be 27, wearing a band on the ring finger of her left hand.
They were published by the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the country's ruling Workers' Party.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted sources in China saying Kim Yo-Jong married a son of Vice Marshall Choe Ryong-Hae, who is widely viewed as Kim's number two, in late 2014.
"As far as I know, Kim Yo-Jong, deputy director of the Workers' Party, got married to a son of the party's secretary Choe Ryong-Hae," one source was quoted as saying.
Yonhap quoted a second source naming Kim Yo-Jong's new husband as Choe's younger son, Choe Song, who is reportedly in his early thirties. Choe has two sons and a daughter.
The marriage has allegedly helped Choe, who visited Moscow as the leader's special envoy in November, secure his position within Kim's inner circle after his rapid ascent to the top of the party just last year.
Analysts say Kim Yo-Jong, who once studied with her brother in Switzerland, wields increasing influence within the hermit kingdom as the head of a propaganda unit in charge of her brother's official visits.
In recent months she has regularly accompanied Kim on his "field guidance" trips.
In 2013 she was named as part of the powerful National Defence Commission and late last year granted a senior party title, triggering speculation that she is being groomed for a similar leadership-supporting role played for decades by her powerful aunt, Kim Kyong-Hui, to her brother and late leader Kim Jong-Il.
Kim Kyong-Hui, 68, held various senior positions in the party but largely disappeared from public view after her husband Jang Song-Thaek was executed in December 2013 for charges including treason.
The Kim family has ruled the reclusive, impoverished state for more than six decades with an iron fist and a pervasive personality cult.