Malaysia hunts NK envoy over murder

Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Source: Wikimedia


The Malaysian authorities have named a North Korean diplomat and a state airline official as wanted for questioning over the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Pyongyang’s leader.

Kim Jong Nam, 46, was assassinated at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13, before boarding a flight to Macau, where he lived in exile with his family under Chinese protection.

South Korean and US investigators claim North Korean agents carried out the murder.

Previously cordial relations between the two countries have been strained over the incident, with North Korea’s ambassador saying he did not trust the police probe and Malaysia recalling its envoy in Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Nam had been openly critical of his younger brother’s dictatorial rule.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar named diplomat Hyon Kwang Song, 44, and Kim Uk Il, 37, of the Air Koryo, the pariah state’s airline.

Khalid said both men were in Malaysia.

“They’ve been called in for assistance. We hope the embassy will cooperate with us and allow us to interview them quickly or else we will compel them to come to us,” Khalid told the media. “We can’t confirm that they are hiding in the embassy.”

The Malaysian authorities have now named eight North Korean suspects in connection with the murder.

One of the suspects, Ri Jong Chol, has been detained for a week. Khalid said he “strongly believed” four suspects had returned to Pyongyang, having fled Malaysia on the day of the attack.

Ri Jong Chol had reportedly lived in Malaysia for three years without working at the company registered on his employment permit or receiving any registered salary.

The authorities said two women, Vietnamese and Indonesian, used fast-acting poison to kill Kim by wiping it in his face.

“Yes, the two female suspects knew that the substance they had was toxic. We don’t know what kind of chemical was used,” Khalid said, in reference to rumours that the women believed it was a television prank.

“They used their bare hands,” he explained. They were instructed to wash their hands afterwards, the police chief added.

The women had rehearsed the operation at shopping centres in Kuala Lumpur, Khalid claimed.

Malaysia was one of very few countries which had relatively friendly relations with North Korea and it was reportedly the first country to enjoy visa-free travel to the isolated dictatorship.

Prime Minister Najib Razak recently apparently criticised the North Korea ambassador to Malaysia for making “diplomatically rude” remarks.