Kim Jong Nam (left) and his half-brother North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Source: YouTube
The Malaysian police confirmed that Kim Jong Nam, believed to be 45 and living overseas since 2001, was attacked while waiting for a flight to Macau, where he reportedly enjoyed the gambling and nightlife.
“A woman came from behind and covered his face with a cloth laced with a liquid,” police chief Fadzil Ahmat told the state-run Bernama news agency.
Kim was seen struggling and sought assistance from staff, Fadzil said. He died on his way to hospital, Fadzil said.
“I have conveyed the matter to the North Korean Embassy,” the police chief said, adding that an autopsy was planned.
The South Korean media had earlier claimed the victim was jabbed with poisoned needles by two female agents who fled in a taxi.
Kim Jong-Nam was targeted in October 2012 when South Korean prosecutors said a North Korean detained as a spy had admitted involvement in a plot to stage a hit-and-run car accident in China in 2010 in which he was the target.
Kim Jong Un recently celebrated five years in charge in Pyongyang.
Kim Jong Nam was rumoured to have worked in computing in North Korea, and possibly on its cyber attacks, and money laundering through Asean.
As the oldest son of the second leader Kim Jong Il, he was considered to be the natural heir to the top job.
But in 2001 Kim Jong Nam was caught at Narita airport in Tokyo, trying to enter Japan with his wife and son with fake Dominican Republic passports. He said they wanted to go to Tokyo Disneyland.
In 2014, he was reported to be at an Italian restaurant in Jakarta and was said to be moving between Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and France.
In 2012, a Moscow newspaper reported that he was having financial problems after being cut off by the regime for questioning its succession policy.
He had sometimes spotted in sushi restaurants or upmarket hotels in Singapore and Beijing, but generally kept a low profile.