By Gabrielle Goldworm
On February 13, Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un, was killed in broad daylight in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur National Airport, said the Guardian. Footage initially broadcasted on closed-circuit Japanese television, suggests that Kim Jong Nam was attacked by an assailant who then fled the scene, reports CNN.
Mr. Kim is reported to have “felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind” and then became dizzy. An ambulance was called, but Kim died en route to the hospital. Two days later, South Korean officials declared his death to be murder by poisoning, and the hunt for possible suspects began, reports CNN.
Initial medical tests show that VX nerve agent, a deadly and internationally-banned chemical weapon, was used in the assassination, said CNN. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, VX nerve agent is the most toxic and fast-acting substance in chemical warfare. The nerve agent is considered by the United Nations to be a weapon of mass destruction.
Following the assassination, other potential suspects started to emerge. In Malaysia, local police made their first two arrests of Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese woman, and Siti Aisyah, an Indonesian woman, shortly after Kim was declared dead.
According to BBC, Siti Aisyah told the authorities she believed that she was participating in a television prank during the attack. Allegedly, the prank, involved rubbing baby oil on Kim Jong Nam’s face, for which she would be paid $90. The baby oil is thought to be the VX nerve agent. Whether her story is true or not, authorities continue to search for the orchestrators of the attack.
Authorities, in cooperation with Interpol and several other regional and international law enforcement groups, gathered as many as twelve suspects. These suspects include senior North Korean Diplomat Hyon Kwang Song, said BBC. However, no concrete evidence has yet been provided implicating North Korea in Kim Jong Nam’s death.
Mr. Kim’s death comes after years of a strained relationship his family reports the BBC. For many years prior to his fall from favor in North Korea, it was believed Kim was being groomed to succeed his father Kim Jong Il. In 2001, that changed when he was caught attempting to sneak into Japan with a fake passport, claiming when confronted that he was trying to visit Disney Land. He later garnered a reputation as an outspoken critic of his father’s “military first” policies, and reportedly wanted “North Korea to embrace economic reform and open its doors”.
Mr. Kim was also critical of his half-brother’s regime, stating that Kim Jong Un was too young, had not been groomed sufficiently, and would ultimately fail as the leader of the reclusive East Asian nation. Despite his outspoken criticism, Mr. Kim was in no way a threat to his younger brother’s rule, reports BBC. He had no desire for the job, and had been out of the country so long that he had no contacts in the DPRK that could possibly help him seize control. Kim reportedly enjoyed close ties with Chinese officials, and even enjoyed certain protections of the Chinese authorities.