Kim Jong-un’s half-brother killed by two female agents

Kim Jong Nam pictured in 2010. Pic: Shin In-seop/JoongAng Ilbo via AP

The older brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has died after being attacked at Kuala Lumpur airport, a senior Malaysian official said.

The official said Kim Jong Nam was attacked with a spray on Monday in the shopping concourse and sought help at an information counter. He was taken to the airport clinic but died en route to hospital, the official said.

Multiple South Korean media outlets, citing unnamed sources, said Kim Jong Nam was assassinated by two women, said to be North Korean agents who are being sought by Malaysian police after fleeing in a taxi.

The district police chief, Abdul Aziz Ali, said a North Korean man was waiting for a flight to Macau on Monday when he fell ill and died en route to hospital.

Selangor state police chief Abu Samah Mat said the man died on the way to Putrajaya Hospital.

Kim Jong Nam reportedly fell out of favour in North Korea after being caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

He is believed to have been in his mid-40s and has reportedly been living in recent years in Macau, Singapore and Malaysia.

Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Un have the same father, late dictator Kim Jong Il, but have different mothers.

Kim Jong-un

Since taking power in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has executed or purged a series of high-level government officials in what the South Korean government has described as a "reign of terror".

The most spectacular was the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, once considered the country's second most powerful man, for what the North alleged was treason.

Seoul says the North also executed a vice premier for education last year for unspecified anti-revolutionary and factional acts, and a defence minister in 2015 for treason.

Mark Tokola, vice president at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington, said it would be surprising if Kim Jong Nam was not killed on the orders of his brother, given that North Korean agents have reportedly tried to assassinate him in the past.

"It seems probable that the motivation for the murder was a continuing sense of paranoia on the part of Kim Jong Un, which may be a well-placed paranoia," Mr Tokola wrote.

Although there was scant evidence that Kim Jong Nam was plotting against the North Korean leader, he provided an alternative for North Koreans who would want to depose his brother.

Mr Tokola, who served as deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Seoul, said Kim Jong Nam has been fairly quiet in his exile, but was quoted in the Japanese media in 2010 as saying he opposed dynastic succession in North Korea.

- AP

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