Photo/IllutrationNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, on the right, have lunch on March 27 with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, in Beijing. This photo was distributed by the Korean Central News Agency. (Korea News Service)

SEOUL--Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, referred to the supreme leader of North Korea as “my husband” at a dinner reception for South Korean officials, marking a major change in protocol for terminology.

Ri made the reference during a March 5 dinner reception for a visiting delegation of South Korean officials, according to a source knowledgeable about relations between the two Koreas.

Her appearance at the dinner sitting next to Kim Jong Un also goes much further than anything done during the rule of Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un's late father.

Whenever dinner receptions were held for the two visits to Pyongyang by South Korean presidents, Kim Jong Il's wife did not attend.

The source said Ri's use of "my husband," a common term used among the younger generations in North Korea, may reflect a desire to show the international community that her nation was no different from any other.

Ordinarily, North Koreans refer to their leader as "wonsu nim," or Dear Marshal, in reference to Kim Jong Un's position as the head of the military and the nation.

Unlike Kim Jong Il's wife, Ri, dressed in Western-style attire, appeared with Kim Jong Un at the entrance to the headquarters of the Workers' Party of Korea to greet the South Korean delegation on March 5. She sat by Kim Jong Un as many of the specialties of Pyongyang were served to their South Korean guests. She also saw off the delegation at the end of the reception.

Ri was a singer affiliated with a noted Pyongyang orchestra before she married Kim Jong Un, likely around 2012. The Korean Central News Agency first introduced Ri as the wife of Kim Jong Un in a report filed July 25, 2012. But she has been in the public eye more frequently in recent weeks. She accompanied Kim Jong Un on his first visit abroad as North Korean leader when he visited China between March 25 and 28. She also attended the performance by South Korean singers and musicians held in Pyongyang on April 1.