North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un’s estranged half brother, Kim Jong-nam was assassinated in KLIA Airport, Malaysia on Monday by two women who splashed poisonous liquid on his face. The incident was first reported by South Korea’s TV Chosun on Tuesday 14 Feb and originally claimed that Jong-nam was murder by poison needles.
American intelligence officials corroborated the report that the exiled half brother of Kim Jong-un, who was also the eldest son of Kim Jong-il, had been killed by female assassins at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) where he apparently had been awaiting a flight to Macau.
The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) said in a statement that a North Korean man they identified as Kim Chol — an alias that South Korean officials said had been used by Kim Jong-nam — died on the way to Putrajaya Hospital on Monday after seeking medical assistance at the airport.
PDRM’s Selangor CID Chief SAC Fadzil Ahmat said the cause of Kim’s death “was not yet known, and that a post mortem would be carried out,” although several foreign news channels have already reported the alleged cause of death. He added that Jong-nam “felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind. He felt dizzy, so he asked for help at the counter of KLIA.”
Jong-nam told the receptionist at the departure hall that someone had splashed liquid on his face and his was in pain. He was sent to the airport clinic where he experienced a mild seizure before he was pronounced dead en route to Putrajaya Hospital.
TV Chosun, a South Korean all-news cable-TV channel, alleged that Kim had been poisoned with a needle by two women believed to be North Korean operatives who fled in a taxi and were at large, citing multiple South Korean government sources, while Financial Times reported that “Kim was attacked by a woman who covered his face with a cloth laced with liquid.”
Kim Jong-nam, 46, was the most outspoken, high-profile critic of the North Korean regime and did not hide his yearnings for reformation although he claimed to have no interest in leading the country politically himself. He attended Kim Il-sung University and served with the Korean People’s Army and later held a senior position in the Ministry of Public Security. It was believed that Jong-nam was being groomed to take over his father.
No one knows exactly when Jong-nam began to defect but it was clear he was evading North Korean officials when he was caught trying to sneak into Japan with a fake passport at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport in 2001. At the time he was with two women and a 4-year old boy, identified as his son. Jong-nam was travelling on a forged Dominican Republic passport and used a Chinese alias, Pang Xiong, which means “fat bear” in Mandarin. He later claimed that he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland, and was detained for 3 days.
In Bradley Martin’s book Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, the author mentions Jong-nam had visited Japan on numerous previous occasions and was a regular in some of the bathhouses in Tokyo’s Yoshiwara red-light district. Another author, of 2012’s My Father, Kim Jong Il, and Me, Yoji Gomi said “Jong Nam spent time living in Macau and China and was absent from his father’s funeral in 2011… he was an overweight and careless playboy, but also a smart and open-minded man who was willing to speak out against the family.”
Jong-nam was quoted by Japanese media in 2010 saying he opposed ”dynastic succession”. After his father’s death, Jong-nam began questioning his younger brother’s ability to maintain “absolute power” and told Yoji Gomi that the country would collapse without reform, but reform would eventually lead to the collapse of the Kim dynasty, leaving his brother as little more than a puppet figure of the ruling elite.
Kim Jong-nam’s mother was Sung Hae-rim, a married actress his grandfather disapproved of. His aunt, Sung Hae-rang, has written in her memoir that his father Kim Jong-il was extremely fond of him and was pained to be away from him. Still, he was sent away to study at an international school in Switzerland like his brothers. It is believed he returned to Pyongyang in the late ’80s.
There have been previous attempts on Jong-nam’s life, notably by a captured North Korean spy whom in 2012 revealed that he had been ordered by the state to kill Jong-nam and went as far as hiring a taxi driver to run Jong-nam over. In 2014, his half-brother ordered the execution of Jang Song-thaek, his uncle and mentor, which shocked even the North Korean elite.
Kim Jong-chul, Jong-il’s middle son and the only other known brother of Jong-nam and Jong-un, was apparently passed over for succession for being too effeminate according to a Japanese sushi chef who spent 13 years cooking for Jong-il. His current whereabouts are unknown. He was last spotted at an Eric Clapton concert in London in 2015.
Kim Jong-nam could have been the country’s Supreme Leader but chose another path instead and maybe if he was NK’s Leader, things would have turned out different. His son Kim Han-sol once said in an interview: “My dad was definitely not really interested in politics.”