Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother was reportedly assassinated in Kuala Lumpur

Kim Jong-nam at Tokyo’s Narita Airport in 2001.
Kim Jong-nam at Tokyo’s Narita Airport in 2001.
Image: Reuters/Eriko Sugita
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Kim Jong-Nam, an older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur’s international airport today, South Korean media reported.

There are conflicting reports of how the attack was carried out. According to Malaysian daily Berita Harian, Malaysian police say a woman approached Kim at a departure lounge at 8am, where he was to board a flight to Macau, and covered his head with a cloth soaked in an unidentified liquid that stung his eyes. The South Korean Chosun cable news channel reported that Kim was attacked by two female agents using ”poisoned needles.”

Kim, 45, was once considered the heir apparent to his father, Kim Jong-Il. He was Jong-Il’s eldest son, and his mother was the actress Sung Hae-Rim. But he fell out of favor in 2001 after a botched attempt to get his son into Tokyo Disneyland on a fake visa, the New York Times reported.

Kim had no official title and lived outside North Korea. He shuttled between Beijing and Macau, where his two wives lived, until 2011, when his father died, according to Chosun. He then vanished, but was spotted in Singapore and Malaysia, where it was believed he lived.

Malaysian police confirmed a North Korean man died at the Kuala Lumpur airport today, but say they are still investigating the man’s identity. The man received treatment at the airport clinic but died while being transferred to a nearby hospital, Reuters reported. Police are treating the case as “sudden death,” Malaysian newspaper Oriental Daily reported.

The death comes a day after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over the Sea of Japan in a test, which interrupted a dinner between US president Donald Trump and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. The men deliberated on a response in a dining room at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, in full view of other diners.

Malaysia has been a hotbed of North Korean intrigue. In 2013, the North Korean ambassador to Malaysia was recalled and executed as part of the last major political purge, which targeted Jang Song-Thaek, an uncle of Kim Jong-Un. Last year, Kuala Lumpur hosted secret talks between top North Korean officials and former US diplomats, the only remaining communication channel between the two sides.

Kim Jong-Un was even bestowed an honorary doctorate in economics by a Malaysian university in 2013—the award was accepted on Kim’s behalf by Jang Yong-chol, the ambassador who was later executed.