6 Key Things To Know About Kim Jong-Nam And Why He Was In Malaysia
Malaysia has been thrust into the limelight after news broke that Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated in KLIA2. He was the estranged older half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.
In yet another high-profile murder case, the incident has been widely reported by various international media around the world.
Kim Jong-Nam was killed in the middle of a busy airport on Monday, 13 February, and it has quickly gotten the attention of many.
We have simplified and listed down some fundamental information about Kim Jong-Nam and the important events in his life leading to his death:
1. His mother was a mistress, and his grandfather despised the relationship between his parents
Born in 1971, Kim Jong-Nam was the son of Song Hye Rim, a North Korean actress who was initially Kim Jong-Il’s secret mistress.
His grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, who was the founding president of North Korea, disapproved of the relationship between Kim Jong-Il and Song Hye Rim. This led to Kim Jong-Nam growing up largely in a secretive environment.
It has been widely speculated that Jong-Nam was once expected to succeed his father instead of Kim Jong-Un. However, Kim Jong-Un's aunt apparently dismissed all claims in an interview with The Washington Post last year.
2. He was known to have spent a significant amount of his time in other countries - including Malaysia
Since he fell out of favour with his grandfather, Kim Jong-Nam was sent away to live with his aunt who reportedly tutored him at home. Later in 1979, he left North Korea to live with his grandmother in Moscow, Russia.
In this period of time, he reportedly lived in Switzerland as well and eventually became fluent in French and English.
It was reported that Kim Jong-Nam had lived in Macau for some time, and had homes in Beijing and Singapore. After spending almost a decade outside of North Korea, he finally returned home in 1988.
According to South Korean news channel TV Chosun, he had girlfriends in Singapore and Malaysia and had been visiting these two countries.
3. Kim Jong-Nam was travelling with a passport under the name 'Kim Chol' when he was killed. A similar incident that happened 16 years ago caused him to fall out of favour with his father.
In 2001, Kim Jong-nam was caught at an airport in Japan for using forged travel documents. His fake Dominican Republic passport bore the name Pang Xiong — which means "fat bear" in Mandarin Chinese — to enter Tokyo in hopes of visiting the Tokyo Disneyland with his wife and son.
Following the incident, Kim Jong-nam was exiled by his father, and he lived in Macau most of the time until Kim Jong-Il died in late 2011.
4. Over the years, he had made headlines for his gambling habits, lavish lifestyle, and his shady personal businesses
BBC reported, "It was no accident that Jong-nam frequented casinos throughout Asia and maintaining some of these financial interests led to a jet-set lifestyle and cemented his reputation as something of a 'party boy'."
Meanwhile, Michael Madden, editor of North Korea Leadership Watch, a specialist website devoted to the ruling Kim family, said that Kim Jong-Nam was involved in some "funny business".
It was also said that the deceased was linked to money laundering activities throughout Southeast Asia.
5. Kim Jong-Nam is infamous for his public criticisms about his family's dynastic control of the isolated state
The Kim family has ruled North Korea for more than 60 years, and Kim Jong-Nam was particularly vocal in his disapproval on the transfer of power that made Kim Jong-un the top leader after the death of their father in 2011.
"Personally I am against third-generation succession," he said in an interview given to the Japanese media in 2010.
"I hope my younger brother will do his best for the sake of North Koreans' prosperous lives."
It is believed that he was uninterested in taking over from his younger brother although it was pointed out that he criticised Kim Jong-Un in a 2012 book, 'My Father, Kim Jong-il and Me'.
6. Someone wanted Kim Jung-Nam dead a few years earlier
Daily Mail cited sources that claim efforts to carry out the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam took place in 2011 but "failed after a bloody shootout with his bodyguards.
One year later, a North Korean spy was caught for trying to organise a hit-and-run accident targeting Kim Jong-Nam in China in 2010.
In that same year, there was another assassination bid.
Following the incident, according to South Korea's head of national intelligence service, Lee Byung-ho, Kim Jong-Nam sent a letter to his brother, Kim Jong-Un. The letter read, "Please spare me and my family".
Now that Kim Jong Nam is actually dead, who are the possible suspects behind the murder?
It was reported that the US and South Korean officials believe that Kim Jong-Un is responsible for Kim Jong-Nam's death. On the other hand, Michael Madden, a US-based expert on the North Korean leadership said that "it doesn't serve Jong-Un's public image or political interests to have his half-brother assassinated".
Several theories have been suggested by various parties on why Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated. One of the most popular theories, singles out Kim Jong-Nam's close ties with the Chinese, and how he was a threat as he was allegedly considered a successor to Kim Jong-Un, who has had strained relations with the Chinese leadership.
Investigations are still ongoing, and speculations continue in the midst of rumours and doubts.
As Jean Lee of the Wilson Centre said, "Everything about North Korea is so murky, so there's no way for us to know the exact reason behind this."
Who do you think is responsible for Kim Jong-Nam's death? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.