South Korean media and the country’s Yonhap News Agency reported Tuesday that Kim Jong-Nam, the elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, was assassinated in Malaysia on Monday morning.
The media cited South Korean government officials as the source of the news but said no further details were provided. Officials were not immediately available for comment or direct confirmation of the elder Kim’s death.
North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un has ruled since 2011
The South Korean cable broadcaster TV Chosun said that the 45-year-old Kim had been poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport by two unidentified women who then fled in a hailed cab. The Reuters news agency reported that the women were believed to be North Korean operatives.
A sick Korean man was brought to the attention of airport authorities, who they then rushed to the hospital. The victim died en route, Malaysian police reported. The police could not verify the victim’s identity.
An estranged sibling
Kim Jong-Nam was once tipped to rule the country
Kim Jong-Nam was estranged from his younger sibling and lived in exile, mainly in the Chinese territory Macau. At one point considered the heir to his father Kim Jong-Il, the elder Kim lost favor after a 2001 escapade to visit Tokyo Disneyland resulted in his capture at a Japanese airport for traveling on a fake passport.
Kim Jong-Nam advocated reform in North Korea, once telling a Japanese newspaper after his exile had begun that he did not support the succession of his family’s dynastic power.
Current ruler Kim Jong-Un, who assumed power upon his father’s death in 2011, has conducted mass purges within official circles. If confirmed, the assassinated-Kim’s death would be the highest-profile case since the ruling Kim executed his uncle Jang Song-Thaek and much of Jang’s family in December 2013. The assassinated Kim is believed to have been close to his uncle.
A parody Twitter account spoofing the hermetically-sealed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea managed to put a satirical spin on the report of Kim Jong-Nam’s death.