The half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly been assassinated in Malaysia, South Korean media and Malaysian police say.
The announcement was first made by the Yonhap News Agency, South Korea's largest news agency, on Tuesday, which said 45-year-old Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of late former leader Kim Jong-il, was “killed” in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday.
It added, citing an unnamed South Korean government source, that he lost his life after being attacked by two unidentified female agents with “poisoned needles.”
Shortly after Yonhop’s report, South Korea's TV Chosun, a cable television network, citing multiple unnamed government sources, confirmed the assassination of Jong-nam by female assailants, adding that they had fled the crime scene and were still at large.
On Tuesday evening, Malaysian police confirmed the death of Jong-nam, saying he had planned to travel to the autonomous region of Macau, which lies on the south coast of China, on Monday morning. Earlier in the day, the police chief in charge of the airport, Assistant Commissioner Abdul Aziz Ali, had reported that Jong-nam, then unidentified, had died en route to hospital from the airport.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, however, said it still could not confirm the reports. North Korea has not commented on the issue so far.
Jong-nam, who studied in Russia and Switzerland, was a computer enthusiast and fluent Japanese speaker. After completing his overseas studies, he monitored his country’s information technology policy.
In 2001, however, he fell from grace after a spectacular blunder. Since 2003, he had been living in exile in Malaysia, Singapore and Macau till his death. Jong-nam was reportedly an occasional critic of his family’s regime, advocating reform.
His death could be considered as the most high-profile death during the reign of his younger brother, Kim Jong-un, since the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the brothers' once powerful uncle, in December 2013.