Pyongyang, Dec 24: Mystery surrounds the identity of a sharp-suited woman who has suddenly appeared amongst the new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's entourage, reports the British tabloid Daily Mail.
Rumours are circulating that the woman pictured standing behind Kim Jong Un at Kumsusan Memorial Palace, as guests paid respects to his dead father Kim Jong Il, is in fact his wife.
If true, her presence could indicate a new openness for the pariah state - as it would be in stark contrast to the departed leader's secretive ways.
Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack on Saturday, was known to have fathered seven children by four women. But it has never been made clear who, if anyone at all, it was he married.
Excitement over 28-year-old Kim Jong Un's pretty new companion has grown after she was pictured among senior leaders which included the 83-year-old Kim Yong Nam, the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly.
She stood out against the line of old, fat and uniformed men around her as she seemingly confirmed recent South Korean reports that the new leader was married to a doctoral student at the prestigious Kim-il Sung University in Pyongyang.
Although she was not named, she was said to be from the northeastern city of Chongjin, and to be two years younger than her husband.
The Daily NK website also revealed she gave birth to his daughter last year. While commentators believe the most likely story is that she is indeed his wife, some have suggested she could actually be one of the late Dear Leader's four daughters.
Japanese celebrity magician Princess Tenko (pictured) could be one of the few non-Koreans to attend Kim Jong Il's funeral.
The artist, whose real name is Tenko Hikita, performed in Pyongyang at his invitation in 1998 and 2000.
She is also said to have had several private dinners with him, and has revealed she has received messages from Kim's relatives inviting her.
She said she had yet to decide whether to accept.
Kim Jong Il had four daughters and the oldest, Kim Hye Kyong, would be in her early 40s. Another, Kim Yo-chong, was born in the late 1980s. Little else is known about them.
The guessing game comes as North Korea made another step towards openness by saying it will admit delegations from the South that wish to visit Pyongyang to express their condolences.
An official website yesterday wrote: 'We will guarantee all convenience and safety of the South Koreans during their visit'.
It added that the North would open 'all air routes and land routes through Kaesong' in reference to its industrial park some 27 miles) north of Seoul.
North Korea continues to mourn the death, with extraordinary photographs released yesterday showing the country's military apparently convulsed by grief.
Women soldiers were pictured breaking down in the street as senior officers wept as they paid their condolences.
According to state media, even nature went awry, with reports that a fierce snowstorm paused and the sky glowed red above the sacred Mount Paektu - where the 69-year-old is said to have been born - just minutes before he died.