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News Story
Updated: 02/15/2017 11:14:10PM

Autopsy completed on N. Korean leader’s half brother

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The car of North Korean ambassador to Malaysia is parked inside the forensic department at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. The apparent assassination of Kim Jong Un's half-brother rippled across Asia on Wednesday as Malaysian investigators scoured airport surveillance video for clues about two female suspects and rival South Korea offered up a single, shaky motive: paranoia. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

A medical staff member stands at the entrance of the forensic department at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Malaysian police arrested a woman Wednesday in the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader's exiled half brother who South Korean spies say once begged his sibling to spare his life. According to two senior Malaysian government officials, the elder Kim died en route to a hospital on Monday after suddenly falling ill at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

This image provided by Star TV on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, of closed circuit television footage from Monday, Feb 13, 2017, shows a woman, left, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, who police say was arrested Wednesday in connection with the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Star TV via AP)

This image provided by Star TV on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, of closed circuit television footage from Monday, Feb 13, 2017, shows a woman, left, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, who police say was arrested Wednesday in connection with the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Star TV via AP)

This image provided by Star TV on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, of closed circuit television footage from Monday, Feb 13, 2017, shows a woman, center in white, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, who police say was arrested Wednesday in connection with the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Star TV via AP)

FILE - In this May 4, 2001, file photo, a man believed to be Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, looks at a battery of photographers as he exits a police van to board a plane to Beijing at Narita international airport in Narita, northeast of Tokyo. Kim was assassinated at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, telling medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray a Malaysian official said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

FILE - In this May 4, 2001, file photo, a man believed to be Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, walks out of a police van before boarding an airplane heading to Beijing at Narita international airport in Narita, northeast of Tokyo. Kim was assassinated at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, telling medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray a Malaysian official said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

FILE - In this May 4, 2001, file photo, Japanese police officers escort a man believed to be Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, as he walks out of a police van to board an airplane heading to Beijing at Narita international airport in Narita, northeast of Tokyo. Kim was assassinated at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, telling medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray a Malaysian official said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Isuo Inouye, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2007, file photo, a man believed to be Kim Jong Nam, eldest son of then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, is surrounded by the media upon arrival from Macau at Beijing airport in Beijing. Kim was assassinated at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, telling medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray a Malaysian official said Tuesday. (Kyodo News via AP, File)

A police car escorts as a hospital van comes out from the forensic department at a hospital in Putrajaya, Malaysia Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was assassinated Monday at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, telling medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray, a Malaysian official said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

Police officers wait at the forensic department entrance at a hospital in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was assassinated Monday at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, telling medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray, a Malaysian official said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

Adele Morrison and Demid Rokachev from Australia perform in the Ice Dance Short Dance program at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Gangneung, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin from South Korea perform in the Ice Dance Short Dance program at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Gangneung, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

By EILEEN NG

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Medical workers have completed an autopsy on Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korea’s leader who was reportedly poisoned this week by two female assassins as he waited for a flight in Malaysia, police said Thursday.

It was not immediately clear if or when Malaysia would release the findings publicly. North Korea had objected to the autopsy and asked for Kim Jong Nam’s body to be returned; Malaysia went ahead with the procedure anyway as the North did not submit a formal protest, said Abdul Samah Mat, a senior Malaysian police official.

But autopsy results could shed light on a death that set off set off waves of speculation over whether North Korea dispatched a hit squad to kill a man known for his drinking, gambling and complicated family life.

The autopsy was completed late Wednesday, hours after police arrested a suspect in the case, a woman carrying Vietnamese travel documents bearing the name Doan Thi Huong. She was picked up at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where Kim Jong Nam fell ill on Monday morning. It was not immediately clear whether the passport was genuine.

She was identified using earlier surveillance video from the airport, police said.

Still photos of the video, confirmed as authentic by police, showed a woman in a skirt and long-sleeved white T-shirt with “LOL” emblazoned across the front.

Kim Jong Nam, who was 45 or 46, was estranged from his younger brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and had been living abroad for years. He reportedly fell out of favor when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

According to two senior Malaysian government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case involves sensitive diplomacy, the elder Kim died en route to a hospital on Monday after suddenly falling ill at the airport’s budget terminal.

He told medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray at the airport, the Malaysian officials said. Multiple South Korean media reports, citing unidentified sources, said two women believed to be North Korean agents killed him with some kind of poison before fleeing in a taxi.

Police said they were hunting for more suspects. No further details were released.

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

South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said Wednesday that North Korea had been trying for five years to kill Kim Jong Nam. The NIS did not definitively say that North Korea was behind the killing, just that it was presumed to be a North Korean operation, according to lawmakers who briefed reporters about the closed-door meeting with the spy officials.

The NIS also cited a “genuine” attempt by North Korea to kill Kim Jong Nam in 2012, the lawmakers said. The NIS told them that Kim Jong Nam sent a letter to Kim Jong Un in April 2012, after the assassination attempt, begging for the lives of himself and his family.

The letter said: “I hope you cancel the order for the punishment of me and my family. We have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, and we know that the only way to escape is committing suicide.”

Although Kim Jong Nam had been originally tipped by some outsiders as a possible successor to his late dictator father, Kim Jong Il, others thought that was unlikely because he lived outside the country, including recently in Macau.

He also frequented casinos, five-star hotels and traveled around Asia, with little say in North Korean affairs.

But his attempt to visit Tokyo Disneyland reportedly soured North Korea’s leadership on his potential as a successor. Kim Jong Nam had said he had no political ambitions, although he was publicly critical of the North Korean regime and his half brother’s legitimacy in the past. In 2010, he was quoted in Japanese media as saying he opposed dynastic succession in North Korea.

Among Kim Jong Un’s executions and purges, 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.

———

Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Tim Sullivan in New Delhi contributed to this report.


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