As most of the suspects are of North Korean origin, South Korean officials say that Kim Jong-un’s brother was murdered by Pyongyang.
Kim Jong-nam, the older half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, was murdered Monday at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. Two women splashed a toxic substance “more potent than cyanide” in Kim’s face. He sought help but died en route to the hospital.
Two female suspects have been detained. One woman was carrying Vietnamese travel documents that identified her as Doan Thi Huong, a 28-year-old native of Nam Dinh. The other woman is a 25-year-old Indonesian native named Siti Aisyah. Both women told authorities that they believed they were involved in a practical joke, suggesting that they may have been pawns in the assassination rather than co-conspirators.
Footage of the attack is expected to confirm their stories.
Malaysian authorities have arrested a North Korean man named Ri Jong Chol, and police have identified four more potential suspects, all North Koreans. There are concerns, however, that the other suspects may have already returned to Pyongyang. These individuals are believed to have masterminded the hit.
Malaysian authorities are reportedly coordinating with Interpol to track down the four additional suspects — Ri Ji Hyon, Hong Song Hac, O Jong Gil, and Ri Jae Nam.
“Given that there are five suspects identified as North Korean nationals, the government judges that North Korea’s regime is behind the latest incident,” South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said at a press briefing Sunday.
Malaysian police are also looking at several other potential suspects, including North Korean citizen Ri Ji U.
Kim Jong-nam was the heir apparent in North Korea until he fell out of favor with his father Kim Jong-il. He has spent years living in exile as an unambitious but outspoken critic of his younger brother’s rule. Kim Jong-un issued a standing order for Kim Jong-nam’s death, and an attempt was made on his life in 2012. Kim Jong-nam previously begged his younger brother to spare his life, and he once told reporters that he felt like he was “living on borrowed time.”
North Korea has criticized Malaysian authorities for refusing to release Kim Jong-nam’s body to Pyongyang and conducting an autopsy without permission. The North has accused Malaysia of “colluding with outside forces” to damage North Korea’s international image. North Korea will “respond strongly to the moves of the hostile forces toward us with their intent to besmirch the image of our republic, by politicizing this incident,” explained North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol, who added that North Korea would sue Malaysia in international court.
The assassination of Kim Jong-nam was amateurish for North Korea, and while it is still unclear whether or not North Korean agents were behind the hit, the evidence against Pyongyang is beginning to pile up.
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