SINGAPORE: The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-nam has been killed in Malaysia, South Korean media reported on Tuesday (Feb 14).
Malaysia’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) chief Mohmad Salleh earlier told Channel NewsAsia that travel documents found on the man indicated he was Kim Jong-nam. He added that a post-mortem had not yet taken place and that the body was in Putrajaya Hospital.
However, a statement by the Royal Malaysia Police inspector-general late Tuesday said the 46-year-old North Korean man who died had “Kim Chol” written on his travel documents. IGP Khalid Abu Bakar told Channel NewsAsia: “We don’t know yet. We will have to cross-check. We can’t confirm that he is Kim Jong-nam.”
Yonhap News Agency had earlier reported that Kim Jong-nam was found dead in Malaysia on Monday. He was the eldest son of former leader Kim Jong-il.
TV Chosun, a South Korean cable television network, reported that Kim Jong-nam was poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport by two women believed to be North Korean operatives, who were at large, citing multiple South Korean government sources. The report said the two women hailed a cab and fled immediately.
Selangor police CID chief Fadzil Ahmat told Reuters that the man fell ill at the low-cost terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
“The deceased … felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind,” Fadzil said. “He felt dizzy, so he asked for help at the … counter of KLIA.” He was taken to an airport clinic where he still felt unwell, and it was decided to take him to hospital. He died in the ambulance on the way to Putrajaya Hospital, Fadzil added.
“We don’t know if there was a cloth or needles; the receptionist said someone grabbed his face, he felt dizzy,” Fadzil said, when asked about the nature of the reported attack.
JONG-NAM TARGETED BEFORE
Kim Jong-nam was born from his father’s non-marital relationship with South Korea-born actress Sung Hae-rim who died in Moscow, according to Yonhap.
Once considered the heir apparent, he fell out of favour with his father following a botched attempt in 2001 to enter Japan on a forged passport and visit Disneyland. He has since lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau.
Kim Jong-un took over as North Korean leader when his father died in December 2011.
If confirmed, Kim Jong-nam’s case would be the highest-profile death under the Kim Jong-un regime since the execution of the leader’s uncle Jang Song Thaek in December 2013.
Kim Jong-nam, known as an advocate of reform in the North, once told a Japanese newspaper that he opposed his country’s dynastic power transfers. He was reportedly close to Jang Song Thaek, once the North’s unofficial number two and political mentor of the current leader.
He has been targeted in the past. In October 2012, South Korean prosecutors said a North Korean detained as a spy had admitted involvement in a plot to stage a hit-and-run car accident in China in 2010 targeting Kim Jong-nam.
In 2014, Kim Jong-nam was reported to be in Indonesia – sighted at an Italian restaurant run by a Japanese businessman in Jakarta – and was said to be shuttling back and forth between Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and France.
In 2012, a Moscow newspaper reported that Kim Jong-nam was having financial problems after being cut off by the Stalinist state for doubting its succession policy.
The Argumenty i Fakty weekly said he was kicked out of a luxury hotel in Macau over a US$15,000 debt.
Last year, South Korea warned of possible North Korean assassination attempts on its territory. It noted previous attempts to assassinate Hwang Jang Yop, the North’s chief ideologue and former tutor to Kim Jong-il, who defected to the South in 1997 and died of natural causes in 2010.