Second Suspect Arrested In Death Of N. Korean Dictator's Half-Brother

Feb 15, 2017
Originally published on February 16, 2017 9:22 am

Updated 11:25 p.m. ET

Malaysian police say they have arrested a second woman in connection with the killing of the North Korean leader's half-brother, Kim Jong Nam. She is 25 years old and a holder of an Indonesian passport. They say she was identified from surveillance TV footage of the airport. Earlier, authorities said they had detained another woman in the death.

The victim, who was in his mid-40s, was the eldest of former dictator Kim Jong Il's children. He died en route to the hospital Monday after a suspicious encounter at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The first woman detained was carrying Vietnamese travel documents, according to police, and was alone at the time of the arrest. Malaysian media cite government sources saying the closed-circuit footage caught two women approaching Kim. One of them covered his face with a cloth before walking away. Police say Kim fell ill and asked a counter clerk for help.

Sources tell NPR his body was transported earlier Tuesday from one hospital to a larger one — Hospital Kuala Lumpur. An autopsy will be performed.

After growing up in Western countries, Kim had been living outside North Korea for decades. He was believed to have homes in Macau, Beijing and Paris. In 2001, Kim was detained trying to enter Japan on false travel documents. He later said he was trying to bring his family to Tokyo Disneyland.

The big mystery, if he didn't die of natural causes, is why Kim Jong Nam was attacked, and why now.

"I don't think we will know the full story about the death of Kim Jong Nam for many years," says Michael Madden, a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, who runs the site North Korean Leadership Watch.

Chan Kok Leong contributed to this post, from Kuala Lumpur.

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And today, North Korea is celebrating the birthday of its late dictator Kim Jong Il just as investigators try and figure out who fatally poisoned Kim's oldest son. Here's NPR's Elise Hu.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: At the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysian investigators are piecing together the final moments of Kim Jong Nam's life. Police say airport surveillance footage shows two women approaching the 45-year-old Kim in Terminal 2. One covered his face with a cloth. Minutes later, Kim fell ill, sought help and died while being rushed to the hospital.

Both women are now in custody. One holds an Indonesian passport, the other Vietnamese. But South Korea's acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, is linking the killing to the North Korean regime.


PRIME MINISTER/ACTING PRESIDENT HWANG KYO-AHN: (Through interpreter) If the murder of Kim Jong Nam was confirmed to be committed by the North, that would clearly depict the brutality and inhumanity of the Kim Jong Un regime.

HU: North Korea's current leader is the estranged half brother of the dead Kim. Why this brother is dead is still a mystery. Kim Chang-su at the Korean Institute for Defense Analyses says the despot could have perceived his brother as a threat.

KIM CHANG-SU: He is on the throne. So he's really emphasized his presence on the throne, then nobody can be allowed to challenge him in North Korea.

HU: As theories abound, a diplomatic vehicle with North Korean flags was parked outside the hospital as the autopsy on Kim was conducted yesterday. So far, Malaysian authorities have not released a cause of death.

Elise Hu, NPR News, Seoul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.