N Korea's 'Little Kim' makes official debut

Ms Kim Yo Jong casting her ballot at a polling station during parliamentary elections.

SEOUL - The younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made her official debut, consolidating the grip on power of the ruling Kim dynasty's third generation.

Ms Kim Yo Jong, believed to be 26, accompanied her elder brother to a polling station on Sunday when North Korea held stage-managed elections to its rubber-stamp Parliament.

It was not her first appearance. She was shown on state television in 2011, tearfully standing next to Mr Kim as they attended the funeral of their father and former ruler Kim Jong Il.

Since then she has occasionally been seen accompanying her brother on his "field guidance trips".

Sunday's outing was different as she was, for the first time, officially listed by her name and as a "senior official" attending the voting function, along with several top party and army luminaries.

State TV showed Ms Kim in a black skirt suit, walking closely behind her brother and casting her vote into a ballot box.

Her precise position was not revealed, but she is believed to be the events director in Mr Kim's Secretariat Office.

In 2012, Ms Kim was seen on state TV riding a white horse - a common propaganda symbol associated with the Kim family - with her aunt, Ms Kim Kyong Hui.

As Mr Kim Jong Il's sister, Ms Kim Kyong Hui was an enormously powerful and influential figure who was given the rank of a four-star general.

Together with her husband, Mr Jang Song Thaek, she was seen as the power behind Mr Kim Jong Un's throne, until the young leader had Mr Jang purged and executed last year.

Dr Ahn Chan Il, head of Seoul-based World Institute for North Korea Studies, said Ms Kim Yo Jong was being groomed to play the same supporting role as her aunt.

"Mr Kim Jong Un and Ms Kim Yo Jong will work in a similar way as their father and Ms Kim Kyong Hui did in securing the future of the Kim dynasty," Dr Ahn said.

"And Ms Kim Kyong Hui will eventually leave official life as part of the power shift within the family," he added.

Ms Kim, 67, has barely been seen in recent years, with reports saying that she was seriously ill and had sought hospital treatment overseas.

The Kim family has ruled North Korea for more than six decades with an iron first wrapped in a pervasive personality cult.