The assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half brother keeps getting weirder
Malaysian police have added another name to their list of 11 suspects in the assassination last week of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged older half brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The country’s Royal Police named a North Korean diplomat as a suspect on Wednesday, further ratcheting up already tense relations between the two countries.
The case continues to take bizarre turns, with top Malaysian authorities reporting Wednesday that someone tried to break into the Kuala Lumpur morgue and steal Kim Jong Nam’s body.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Malaysian Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Wednesday that 44-year-old Hyon Kwang Song, a second secretary at North Korea’s embassy, is wanted for questioning in connection with the death of Kim Jong Nam. A senior Malaysian security source told The Telegraph that Hyon was “the supervisor of the whole plot.”
- As well as Hyon, Malaysian police want to question 37-year-old Kim Uk Il, an employee of Air Koryo, North Korea’s state-run airline. Authorities also claim four more suspects flew back to Pyongyang immediately after the attack. They previously arrested two women accused of carrying out the attack, as well as two male suspects, including 46-year-old North Korean Ri Jong Chol.
- The two North Korean suspects wanted for questioning are said to be hiding inside the country’s embassy in Malaysia, though the police have not confirmed these media reports. “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,” Bakar said.
- The historically friendly relationship between North Korea and Malaysia has been steadily deteriorating since Kim Jong Nam was murdered at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13. South Korea has said it strongly believes this was an assassination by poison carried out at the behest of Kim Jong Un, though no concrete evidence has yet been produced to back up this claim.
- An initial autopsy on Kim Jong Nam proved inconclusive, so authorities carried out a second one, incensing Pyongyang. North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol rebuked the Malaysian government, saying it violated human rights by “trying to conceal something” and “colluding with hostile forces.” These comments led to Kang being summoned by the Malaysian foreign ministry on Monday to explain his words.
- Malaysia has repeatedly denied requests by the North Korean government to hand over Kim Jong Nam’s remains, saying it will hand over the body only to a relative who can provide DNA evidence. Reports suggest one of Kim Jong Nam’s sons, Kim Han Sol, is already in Kuala Lumpur, but officials say no family members have come forward. Last Friday the North Korean ambassador appeared outside Malaysia’s National Forensics Institute but was refused entry.
— Channel NewsAsia (@ChannelNewsAsia) February 18, 2017
- On Wednesday, Bakar confirmed that someone had attempted to break into the morgue where Kim Jong Nam’s body is being stored, but would not confirm if the perpetrators were North Korean. “We know who they are,” Bakar said. “No need to tell you.” North Korea has said it will reject the findings of any autopsy.
- CCTV footage of the attack, released over the weekend, shows one of the women standing in front of Kim Jong Nam to distract him while the second sprays or rubs some liquid in his face. Local media reports suggested the women were conned into thinking they were taking part in a prank TV show, but Bakar dismissed these suggestions on Wednesday, saying the pair had practiced their attack twice in shopping centers in Kuala Lumpur on the day of the attack. Authorities are still trying to determine what type of poison was used in the attack.