Kim Jong Un's Half-Brother Reportedly Assassinated
South Korean officials say Kim Jong Nam was poisoned in Malaysia
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2017 10:20 AM CST
A man believed to be Kim Jong Nam is seen in Japan in 2001.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)
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(Newser) – Kim Jong Un's half-brother has died in Malaysia in what South Korean government officials claim was an assassination. Police official Fadzil Ahmat tells Reuters that Kim Jong Nam—the son of Kim Jong Il and actress Song Hye Rim—became dizzy and "felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind" while at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday. He had been waiting for a flight to Macau but instead died en route to a hospital. A cause of death has not been established and "so far there are no suspects," Ahmat says. However, South Korean government sources tell local media that two women thought to be North Korean agents poisoned Kim using a needle before escaping in a taxi. South Korea's foreign ministry says it can't confirm that report.

The AP has a slightly different take via an unnamed senior Malaysian official who says Kim was attacked with a chemical spray. Kim—an "overweight and careless playboy, but also a smart and open-minded man," per CNN—was once considered his father's heir before he fell out of favor. He didn't attend his father's funeral and later told a Japanese newspaper that he "insisted on reform and market-opening and was eventually viewed with suspicion," per USA Today. Speculation from Mark Tokola, vice president at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington: "It seems probable that the motivation for the murder was a continuing sense of paranoia on the part of Kim Jong Un." Kim Jong Nam, who spent much of his time in China, had also spoken out against his family and was said to have been close to his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was executed in 2013.

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