Kim Jong-nam saga - one month on

PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA - It has been a month since the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, gripped the world, and there is no sign that the story, with its continuing saga of bizarre claims, diplomatic rift and an unclaimed body, will die down soon.

On Feb 13, Jong-nam, 45, was fatally poisoned by two women in broad daylight in KLIA2 as he was getting ready to fly home to Macau where he lived in exile with his family.

The act was caught on CCTV and Jong-nam died within 20 minutes after the brazen attack.

Half-brother of N Korean leader assassinated in Malaysia

  • Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, was surrounded by a heavy police presence as they were charged in a Kuala Lumpur court over the killing.
  • Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, was surrounded by a heavy police presence as they were charged in a Kuala Lumpur court over the killing.
  • Huong, also dressed casually, then heard the charge in Vietnamese.
  • Siti, wearing a red T-shirt, was brought in first to hear the murder charge read out before being taken away.
  • The handcuffed women were both told they faced the death penalty if found guilty.
  • Neither woman was asked to enter a plea and their trial is not expected to begin for several months.
  • Four suspects in the Kim Jong Nam murder: Malaysian Muhammad Farid Bin Jalaluddin (top L), Doan Thi Huong (top R) of Vietnam, North Korean Ri Jong Chol (bottom L) and Siti Aisyah of Indonesia (bottom R).
  • : A still image from a footage broadcast by Chinese state media which they say is believed to show the second woman (wearing yellow top) suspected of involvement in the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam.
  • Mystery woman: A CCTV screen grab showing a woman outside what looked like the airport, was circulated briefly after news broke last night that the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had been killed in Malaysia. The picture fits the description of one of the two women believed to be North Korean spies, who had poisoned Kim Jong-nam during a brazen attack at KLIA2.
  • CCTV cameras at KLIA2 have captured a clearer image of a woman believed to be one of the assassins who killed Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
  • The image zooms in on the alleged killer's features, depicting her to be middle-aged and of Asian descent.
  • In the grainy image, she can be seen wearing a top with the word "LOL" in large letters and a blue short skirt, with her right hand over a small sling handbag.
  • North Korea embassy officials leave the morgue at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital where Kim Jong Nam's body is held for autopsy in Malaysia.
  • Jong-nam, 45, died after he was attacked at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Monday.
  • He is believed to have been attacked by two female agents who splashed his face with a chemical at the airport's departure hall at about 9am on Monday.
  • A statement confirming the death from the Royal Malaysia Police force.
  • Three cars belonging to the North Korean embassy were seen in the compound of the mortuary at Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL). At least two of the cars were parked inside the compound while the third was seen parked outside with a police patrol car parked behind it. The cars had diplomatic number plates, one of which was 28-35-DC.
  • Occupants of the cars were at the mortuary where a post-mortem on the body of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was being carried out.
  • North Korean female agents operating in Malaysia have reportedly assassinated the half-brother of the North's leader, Kim Jong-Un - a one-time heir apparent who became a critic of the Stalinist regime.
  • South Korean media said Tuesday that Kim Jong-Nam was killed with poisoned needles at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Officials in Seoul and the Malaysian capital could not confirm his death.
  • Malaysian police said in a statement late Tuesday that a North Korean man, identified as Kim Chol, sought medical assistance at the airport and died on the way to hospital.
  • South Korean media said Jong-Nam had travelled using a fake passport under the name of Kim Chol.
  • If confirmed, it would be the highest-profile death under the Jong-Un regime since the execution of the leader's uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, in December 2013.
  • Jong-Un has been trying to strengthen his grip on power in the face of growing international pressure over his country's nuclear and missile programmes. He has reportedly staged a series of executions. The latest launch of a new intermediate-range missile on Sunday brought UN Security Council condemnation and vows of a strong response from US President Donald Trump.
  • South Korea's national news agency Yonhap quoted a source as saying agents of the North's spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, carried out the assassination on Monday by taking advantage of a security loophole between Jong-Nam's bodyguards and Malaysian police at the airport.
  • Malaysian private security guards stand guard outside the Forensics department at Putrajaya Hospital in Putrajaya on February 14, 2017, where the body of a North Korean man suspected to be Kim Jong-Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is believed to be kept.
  • The 45-year-old was killed by two unidentified females wielding poisoned needles at the airport, according to South Korean broadcaster TV Chosun.
  • It said the women hailed a cab and fled immediately afterwards. Jong-Nam, the eldest son of former leader Kim Jong-Il, was once seen as heir apparent but fell out of favour following an embarrassing botched attempt in 2001 to enter Japan on a forged passport and visit Disneyland. He has since lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau.
  • A pedestrian walks in front of a clinic where a North Korean man suspected to be Kim Jong-Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is believed had been taken at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA 2) in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur on February 14, 2017.
  • His half-brother took over as leader when their father died in December 2011. Jong-Nam, known as an advocate of reform in the North, once told a Japanese newspaper that he opposed his country's dynastic system of power.
  • He was reportedly close to his uncle Song-Thaek, once the North's unofficial number two and political mentor of the current leader. Cheong Seong-Jang, senior researcher at Seoul's Sejong Institute think-tank, said Jong-Nam had been living in near-exile so it was unlikely that Jong-Un saw him as a potential competitor for power.
  • Policemen stand outside the morgue at Putrajaya hospital in Malaysia February 15, 2017.
  • In 2014, Jong-Nam was reported to be in Indonesia - sighted at an Italian restaurant in Jakarta - and was said to be shuttling back and forth between Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and France.
  • N Korean officials scuffle with media outside the KL hospital.
  • N Korean officials speaking to Malaysian authorities.
  • The Korean restaurant along Tanjong Pagar road where Kim Jong Nam was said to have dined in when he was spotted in Singapore in 2014.

When news of the assassination broke the next day, media outlets scrambled to dispatch teams to Putrajaya Hospital, where a stricken Jong-nam was due to be sent to before dying enroute from the low-cost carrier terminal.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar then identified the victim as one Kim Chol, based on the diplomatic passport that was on him.

As with many high-profile cases, the body was taken to the Hospital Kuala Lumpur mortuary for a post-mortem but under heavy police guard. The remains are still being kept pending identification by his next of kin.

Read also: The killing of Kim Jong Nam: Malaysia, North Korea take each other hostage

The venue became a hotspot with local and international media staking out there in earnest daily to report on what is certainly one of the biggest stories of 2017.

Police arrests were swiftly made.

By Feb 16, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, and Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, were caught.

The women were charged with Jong-nam's murder on March 1 in another headline-grabbing day of high police security, and bullet-proof vests were put on the two accused.

North Korean Ri Jong-chol was held on Feb 17, but released on March 3, after a lack of evidence prevented authorities from pressing charges. The 47-year-old chemist was deported the same day.

Despite the North Korean embassy insisting that the victim had died due to an apparent heart attack because of his health history, post-mortem results found that Jong-nam had been killed by the nerve agent VX, a chemical listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.

Police identified more suspects, including the embassy's second secretary, 44-year-old Hyon Kwang-song.

Diplomatic relations were severely tested when then-North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol questioned the validity of the police investigation as well as alleging a conspiracy orchestrated by North Korea's enemies.

That set off a war of words between him and Wisma Putra, with Malaysia recalling its ambassador to North Korea, Mohamad Nizan Mohamad.

However, Kang Chol continued issuing statements that criticised Malaysia on its handling of the matter.

Read also: Malaysian court charges two women with Kim Jong-nam murder

Malaysia responded by stopping visa-free travel for North Koreans to Malaysia, the only country that offered them the benefit.

The situation did not improve and ultimately led to Kang Chol being declared persona non grata by the Foreign Ministry on March 4. He left the country with his wife and their granddaughter on March 6.

In a tit-for-tat response, North Korea also expelled ambassador Mohamad Nizan.

Tensions escalated on March 7, with the hermit nation barring all 11 Malaysians there from leaving the country, effectively turning them into hostages.

Photo: AsiaOne

Malaysia reacted by issuing a similar ban for the 315 North Koreans still in the country.

An emergency meeting of the National Security Council was chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as the Government looked into securing the safe release of its citizens.

Two of the 11 Malaysians - Stella Lim and Nyanaprakash Muniandy, working for the United Nations' World Food Programme - were out of Pyongyang and reached Beijing on March 9.

They will continue their work from there.

On March 10, Khalid officially confirmed the identity of the deceased as Kim Jong-nam.

Read also: Malaysia police chief: Body positively identified as Kim Jong-nam's

US diplomat: Malaysia impressive, N Korea's actions reprehensible

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