Suspected North Korean agents reportedly killed Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong-nam, South Korean government sources told reporters.
Two unidentified women believed to be North Korean operatives poisoned Kim with a needle at an airport in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, South Korea’s cable TV broadcaster TV Chosun reported. The two women fled the scene immediately after the hit, and they are being tracked by Malaysian authorities.
The details of the murder are still a little unclear. Some reports indicate that a toxic substance was sprayed or splashed in Kim Jong-nam’s face. Others suggest that the toxin was applied from behind with a rag.
Kim reportedly died en route to Putrajaya Hospital.
South Korea’s intelligence agencies have yet to confirm that Kim Jong-nam was killed by North Korean agents. The U.S., however, “strongly believes” that he was murdered by North Korean overseas operatives, according to U.S. government sources.
Kim’s death, likely a high-profile assassination, may be part of Kim Jong-un’s efforts to consolidate his power.
Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-un were both former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s children, however, they had different mothers. Kim Jong-nam was born to actress Song Hye-rim, one of the late leader’s mistresses, while Kim Jong-un’s mother was Ko Yong-hui.
Kim Jong-nam was close to his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who the supreme leader had executed by machine gun firing squad shortly after taking power. Kim Jong-nam spent much of his life outside of North Korea and publicly spoke out against Kim Jong-il’s decision to pass on power to Kim Jong-un.
“Personally I am against third-generation succession,” he told Japan’s Asahi TV in 2010, just before his younger brother took over. “I hope my younger brother will do his best for the sake of North Koreans’ prosperous lives.” He did, however, stress that he had no interest in leading North Korea.
Kim Jong-nam fell out of favor with his father after he attempted to use a fake passport to travel to Japan and visit Tokyo Disneyland in 2001.
In 2012, a detained North Korean spy confessed to attempting a hit on Kim Jong-nam in 2010, according to South Korean prosecutors.
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