Mystery over Kim Jong-un’s wife
North Korea's enigmatic First Lady has made her first public appearance since abruptly vanishing in June, sparked intense speculation.
Leader Kim Jong-un and his spouse Ri Sol Ju were pictured at celebrations marking national holidays back in June.
But since then, the First Lady has been nowhere to be seen.
Her disappearance was taken by many as a sign she could be pregnant, although no official news has been released by the secretive state.
And earlier this week, she was spotted in public for the first time in four months, which some believe could indicate she has already given birth.
Speaking to The Sun, Myanmar-based North Korea expert Markus Bell said it was no surprise the leader had not officially announced a pregnancy.
"The secrecy surrounding reports of Ri's pregnancy is nothing surprising for North Korea," he said.
"The default mode for North Korea is poker-faced silence.
"One thing's for sure, Kim and Ri will be keeping their fingers crossed for a boy this time - a future supreme leader to hand over the reins to in years to come."
Mr Bell told The Sun North Korea's rulers were famously cutthroat and competitive with family members.
"Given the central role of the Kims in governing North Korea, it makes sense that the leader prepare thoroughly for the next generation of heirs and heiresses to take over," he told the publication.
"Of course, given what we know about the cut throat nature of North Korean family politics, creating future leaders is also creating future rivals."
This week, the First Lady was seen with her husband as the couple visited the resort of Mount Kumgang this week.
In photos, she can be seen wearing a long black outfit and no baby bump can be seen, which could indicate a potential North Korean heir may have already arrived.
But if the couple did welcome a child, the public may not know for sure for years - if ever.
While Kim Jong-un is believed to have fathered three children, it has never been officially confirmed.
He himself was only revealed to residents of North Korea once he reached his late 20s, and his marriage to Ri Sol Ju was only exposed after she was described as his "wife" in passing on local news in 2012, although it is believed they married as early as 2009.
In fact, Ri Sol Ju has only been referred to by North Korea propaganda as "First Lady" since 2018.
In contrast, Kim Jong-un's father Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011, never introduced his multiple wives to the public at all, so Ri Sol Ju's many public appearances are a radical change in direction of the leadership.
The couple's existing three children have also not been confirmed, although close friend and basketball star Dennis Rodman appeared to break the news when he mentioned a daughter named Kim Ju-ae in an interview in 2013.
"I held their baby Ju-ae and spoke with Ms Ri as well. (Kim's) a good dad and has a beautiful family," Rodman told The Guardian at the time.
He also referred to two other kids, although their gender, age and names have ever been acknowledged.
Ri Sol Ju also abruptly disappeared from the public for prolonged periods in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
South Korean sources claim she had given birth to her third child in February 2017.
WHO IS RI SOL JU?
Very little is known about the First Lady, although she is believed to be around 30 years old, and to have been born in capital city Pyongyang.
She was reportedly born into the North Korean elite, with a professor as a father and a doctor for a mother.
But the mystery surrounding her is so intense it is even believed her name could be a pseudonym.
It is understood she graduated from Geumsung Middle School in Pyongyang, studied music in China and visited South Korea as a member of North Korea's cheering squad for the Asian Athletics Championships in 2005.
When the First Lady does appear in public, she does little more than smile politely alongside the leader, although she has a noticeable penchant for western fashion.
She is regularly seen wearing clothing and accessories by luxury designers such as Dior and Chanel which has sparked controversy, as many regular North Koreans battle poverty and hunger.