North Korean leader’s brother Kim Jong-nam ‘assassinated’ in Malaysia

The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-nam, is dead under suspicious circumstances in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, reports say.

Korean media outlets reported Tuesday that two female agents with “poison needles,” attacked the elder brother.

The reports — which could not immediately be verified — said he was attacked at Kuala Lumpur airport Monday by two women who fled the scene in a taxi, according to reports on South Korea’s TV Chosun and Korea Broadcasting System.

In South Korea, unnamed government sources reported his “killing” to media outlets.

According to TV Chosun, a cable television network in South Korea, two women believed to be North Koreans poisoned Mr. Kim, 45.

A Malaysian official who spoke to the Associated Press news agency said Kim Jong-nam had been attacked with a spray in an airport shopping area.

Quoted by Reuters news agency in a report published by BBC, Malaysian police official Fadzil Ahmat apparently gave the dying man’s own account of what had happened.

“The deceased felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind,” he said.

“He felt dizzy, so he asked for help at the … counter of KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport).”

He was taken to an airport clinic where he still felt unwell and it was decided to take him to hospital, the police official went on.

He died in the ambulance on the way to Putrajaya Hospital.

“So far there are no suspects, but we have started investigations and are looking at a few possibilities to get leads,” Fadzil added.

Kim Jong Nam was born in 1971, the son of leader Kim Jong Il and his consort, an actress named Song Hye Rim. But he grew up largely in secret, the result of founding president Kim Il Sung’s disapproval of his son’s relationship with Song.

He left North Korea to live with his grandmother in Moscow in 1979, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, a Website devoted to the ruling Kim family. He spent his childhood at international schools in Russia and Switzerland, before returning to North Korea in 1988, the site said.

In October 2010, the day before Kim Jong Un was announced as their father’s successor, Kim Jong Nam told Japan’s Asahi TV that he was opposed to third-generation succession. “But I think there were internal factors behind the decision, and if this is the case, then we should follow that,” he said.

He did, however, visit North Korea at least once after his younger half-brother took charge — for their father’s funeral in 2011.

Two years later, the young North Korean leader had their uncle — and Kim Jong Nam’s mentor, Jang Song Thaek — executed on suspicion of building an alternate power base.

Since that time, Kim Jong Nam had occasionally been sighted in sushi restaurants in Singapore and swanky hotel bars in Beijing, but otherwise kept an extremely low profile.

Analysts have long suspected that China was keeping Kim Jong Nam — who was thought to have lived between Beijing, Singapore and Macau — in reserve as a potential successor to Kim Jong Un, who has had strained relations with the Chinese leadership, The Washington Post reports.

The BBC reports Kim Jong Nam was reportedly targeted for assassination in the past. A North Korean spy jailed by South Korea in 2012 was reported to have admitted trying to organize a hit-and-run accident targeting the elder brother.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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