N. Korea reveals senior rank of Kim Jong Un's little sister

SEOUL - North Korea revealed Thursday that Kim Jong-Un's younger sister holds the title of a senior party official, confirming her rise through the ranks as a potential key aide to the young leader.

Kim Yo-Jong, believed to be 26, made her first public appearance during the funeral of her father and longtime ruler Kim Jong-Il in December 2011.

Since then, she has occasionally been seen accompanying her brother to political events and on his "field guidance trips", but without any specific title attached to her name.

That changed Thursday when the North's official KCNA news agency listed her as a "vice department director" in the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party.

She was accompanying her brother on a trip to a cartoon film studio founded by their grandfather and the North's founding president, Kim Il-Sung.

During the visit, Kim Jong-Un urged animators to produce works that are "true to the intention of the party".

It is not clear exactly what Kim Yo-Jong's responsibilities are, but analysts suggested she was either in the powerful organisational department handling personnel changes or a propaganda unit.

"There aren't a whole lot of officials at her level that get publicly mentioned in KCNA articles," noted Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

North Korean watchers have speculated that Kim Yo-Jong is being groomed to playing the same leadership supporting role as her powerful aunt, Kim Kyong-Hui.

Kim Kyong-Hui, 68, was a close aide to her own brother and late leader Kim Jong-Il for decades, assuming senior positions in the party and becoming a four-star general in 2010.

But she largely disappeared from public view after her husband Jang Song-Thaek was executed last December for charges including treason.

She and Jang had been seen as the ultimate Pyongyang power couple, and instrumental in smoothing Kim Jong-Un's transition to power, before Jang fell from grace.

How powerful is she?

Yang Moo-Jin said it was still too early to say whether Kim Yo-Jong would be able to acquire the same level of power and influence as her aunt.

"It's hard to gauge where she stands overall. Is she influential enough to communicate with top party officials? Or is she simply working at propaganda operations?" Yang said.

"It's hard to tell, especially with someone so young. So I think it's premature to say what role she is, or will be, playing," he added.

The Kim family has ruled the reclusive, impoverished state for more than six decades with an iron fist and a pervasive personality cult.

A resolution adopted at the UN earlier this month condemned the North's human rights record and recommended that its leadership be referred to the International Criminal Court on possible charges of crimes against humanity.

Pyongyang has rejected the resolution as politically motivated, and a series of mass rallies denouncing its adoption have been held in cities across North Korea in recent days.

Images published by the ruling party's official newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Thursday showed thousands marching with banners reading: "Let's become guns and bombs that protect the respected comrade Kim Jong-Un!"

The largest rally was held in Pyongyang on Tuesday, with hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians packing the capital's Kim Il-Sung Square.