© 2024 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
HPR's spring membership campaign is underway! Support the reporting, storytelling and music you depend on. Donate now

North Korean Regime Blamed As Kim Jong Nam Death Investigation Widens

South Korea's government says it's convinced the North Korean regime orchestrated the bizarre poisoning death of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We are observing this pointless and merciless incident with grave concern," the South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

The incident, which South Koreans are calling an assassination, happened last week at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Two women of Southeast Asian nationalities approached Kim and appeared to apply a liquid to his face and cover it with a cloth, authorities say. Shortly thereafter, Kim fell ill and sought help. He died before reaching the hospital.

The two women, a taxi driver and a separate suspect, are in Malaysian police custody. But Malaysian investigators say they identified an additional four men — all North Korean — as suspects in the crime. Investigators say those four men flew out of Malaysia on the day of the poisoning.

As the investigation continues, so does a diplomatic row over the late Kim's body. Malaysian authorities have conducted at least one autopsy, and authorities said the results will be released in the coming days.

North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol, gave a statement to reporters outside the hospital morgue Friday, in which he said North Korea would "categorically reject" results of the autopsy because North Korean officials were excluded, and accused the Malaysians of working with "hostile forces" on the case.

Malaysian authorities said Sunday they are cooperating with Interpol in the investigation. They say they would release the body to the next of kin, but so far, Kim's next of kin have not come forward.

Chan Kok Leong contributed to this post from Kuala Lumpur. Haeryun Kang contributed from Seoul.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.
Related Stories