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North Korea leader's half-brother and rival is dead in a suspected assassination

15 February 2017

The half brother, Kim Jong-nam, 45, was killed by two women who attacked him with poison needles at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday, TV Chosun, South Korea's all-news channel, reported without identifying its source.

Outside analysts had once assumed that Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of former leader Kim Jong-il, could be the intended heir after his father, whose own father, Kim Il-sung, founded the Democratic People's Republic of Korea after World War II. He said the man held a North Korean passport but "we do not know his identity".

Police and the military were notified, but the North Korean assassins managed to evade detection.

Kim Jong Nam was believed to be close to his uncle, Joang Song Thaek.

It's thought that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was nervous about his half-brother potentially constituting a rival power center, and may have offed him. The woman's are believed to be North Korean agents but have so far been able to evade a police hunt. Although there was scant evidence that Kim Jong Nam was plotting against the North Korean leader, he provided an alternative for North Koreans who would want to depose his brother.

Jong-Nam, who was travelling alone, had at 9am told airport staff at a reception desk that he felt "dizzy" after an unknown person had swabbed his face with an unknown object.

The man was seen struggling for help and sought assistance from airport staff, he said.

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He told Japanese investigative authorities at the time that he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland. The idea that Kim Jong-nam would be targeted for assassination isn't new in itself. Unlike Jong-un, though, Jong-nam's mother was a South Korean-born actress, with whom Jong-il had a nonmarital relationship.

"The power elite that have ruled the country will continue to be in control", wrote Kim Jong-nam in an email. He's also older than Jong-un, and perhaps a potential rival if factions develop in Pyongyang seeking to depose Jong-un.

A man watches a television showing news reports of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, in Seoul on February 14, 2017.

He said several times over the years that he had no interest in leading his country.

Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at the Dongguk University in Seoul said that Jong-nam had previously been the subject of speculation that he could replace his younger half-brother. South Korean media reports said the assailants, believed to be North Korean agents, fled and remained at large Tuesday.

"I hope my younger brother will do his best for the sake of North Koreans' prosperous lives".

It could be that Kim Jong Un, who is only 33, was in the end stages of consolidating his leadership. His younger brother, Kim Jong Un, was instead heralded as the "Great Successor".

North Korea leader's half-brother and rival is dead in a suspected assassination