Malaysian authorities announced Thursday their refusal to release the body of Kim Jong Nam to North Korea without a Kim family DNA sample. They also refuse to disclose the results of his autopsy, which was completed Wednesday, without said sample. Kim Jong Nam is the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He died in Malaysia on Monday morning. According to South Korean officials, he was killed by a fast-acting poison administered by two women who approached him in Kuala Lumpur Airport. So far, three suspects are in custody.
Diplomats at the North Korean embassy asked that no autopsy be performed and that the body be released to North Korea immediately, but the Malaysian government refused and conducted an autopsy. Selangor State Police Chief Abdul Samah Mat made a statement to AFP: “So far no family member or next of kin has come to identify or claim the body. We need a DNA sample of a family member to match the profile of the dead person.”
On Wednesday, Malaysian authorities arrested 26-year-old taxi driver Muhammad Farid Bin Jalaluddin, whom they believe to be the boyfriend of one of the women who approached Kim Jong Nam in the Kuala Lumpur Airport on Monday. Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign affairs has confirmed one of the woman, Siti Aishah, is a Indonesian citizen, but confirmation of whether her counterpart, whose name is given as Doan Thi Hong, is actually Vietnamese or was merely carrying a Vietnamese passport is still pending. Selangor State Police Chief Abdul Samah Mat told CNN Jalaluddin helped the police find Aishah. The two women are to be held for seven days. No one has yet been charged in the case.
In findings published in the New Straits Times, CCTV footage from the airport showed two women, presumably Aishah and Hong, walk up to Kim near the self-check-in stand. One of them distracted him while the other grabbed his face or neck and administered the poison, though reports differ as to whether she used a needle, spray or impregnated cloth. Kim Jong Nam fell sick and went to the airport clinic, where an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital. He died on the way. Hong was wearing a T-shirt with “LOL” on it when she approached Kim.
Kim had been traveling under the alias Kim Chol and was returning to Macau where he has lived with his family since leaving North Korea.
Kim Jong Nam, 45, was the oldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. His mother was Kim Jong Il’s mistress Song Hye Rim and he was raised separately from his half-brothers. He was considered the elder Kim’s heir apparent but lost favor after an incident in 2001 when he used a fake passport in an attempt to visit Japan. Kim has lived outside of North Korea for many years and did not attend his father’s funeral in 2011. He favored more economic reform for North Korea and once told Japanese writer Yoji Gomi that he did not believe Kim Jong Un would be a good leader:
“The Kim Jong-un regime will not last long,” said Kim to Gomi in 2012. “Without reforms, North Korea will collapse, and when such changes take place, the regime will collapse.”
There has been talk that Kim Jong Un’s regime may have ordered his half-brother’s death. Although it is not clear whether any of the suspects were in communication with North Korean leadership, the Korean Institute for Defense Analyses’s Kim Chang-su stated Kim Jong Un may have felt his brother was a threat to his position. In the years since Kim Jong Un became leader, many people seen as threats, including his uncle and advisor Jang Song Thaek, have ended up dead. However, Jang was executed for treason, not poisoned in an airport. Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi dismissed allegations that North Korea arranged Kim’s death as “only speculation.”