Obituary: Kim Jong-nam
By Maxim LeFleur
Once thought to be the successor of Kim Jong-il in leading the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-nam spent years living abroad after falling out of favor, before his untimely death at age 45, according to reports.
As the eldest son of deceased North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-il, Jong-nam was anticipated to succeed his father before he was caught trying to enter Japan using a fake passport in 2001 and fell out of favor, the Guardian reported. Jong-nam was attempting to pay a visit to Tokyo Disneyland, according to statements he made at the time of the incident.
After leaving his homeland, Jong-nam is said to have primarily resided in Macau and Beijing till his death, according to reports. While living abroad, he became a more vocal critic of the North Korean government.
“The Kim Jong-un regime will not last long,” Kim Jong-nam said in a recent book written by Tokyo Shinbun reporter Yoji Gomi. “Without reforms, North Korea will collapse, and when such changes take place, the regime will collapse.”
“I think we will see valuable time lost as the regime sits idle fretting over whether it should pursue reforms or stick to the present political structure,” he continued.
Female assassins stabbed Jong-nam with poisoned needles as he waited for an international flight to Macau, from which he later died in an ambulance en route to a hospital, the New York Times said.
“The deceased … felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind,” said Malaysian police official Fadzil Ahmat, according to Reuters. “We don’t know if there was a cloth or needles. The receptionist said someone grabbed his face, he felt dizzy.”
The two female assailants are suspected to be operatives working for the North Korean government, according to South Korean network, TV Chosun.
“Given the recent defections,” said Ken E. Gause, a specialist in leadership studies at the CNA Corporation, according to the New York Times. “Kim Jong-un felt the need to show that the regime could get to anyone who may be contemplating opposing the regime,” he added.
The Malaysian government maintains positive relations with North Korea, with a visa-free travel system for their citizens, which could increase the difficulty of catching the assassins involved, the Guardian reported.
Other reports say that some, or all, of the assassins may have come from Vietnam, the Telegraph reported. CCTV footage shows a possible female suspect in a ‘LOL’ shirt, as per photos published by The Star.
Kim Jong-nam is survived by two wives, a mistress, and several children in Beijing and Macau, according to Chosun Media.