Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says Malaysia will return the body of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader at Pyongyang’s request. Photo: Bernama
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today officially confirmed that the North Korean man who died at KL International Airport 2 on Monday was Kim Jong-nam, the estranged elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to Bernama, Malaysian National News Agency.
The Royal Malaysia Police said in previous statement that a North Korean man who sought medical assistance at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 customer service counter was identified as Kim Chol on Monday.
Ahmad Zahid confirmed that Kim Jong-nam had travelled using the "undercover" identity of Kim Chol.
He said the identity was verified based on the passport which was authentic.
"His identity was confirmed from the passport that we compared with the document issued by the Embassy of North Korea and by the identity issued by the embassy," he said at a press conference on Thursday.
He also said Kim’s body would be released to the next-of-kin or the embassy after all the police and medical procedures had been completed.
When asked if Jong-nam's death had been categorised as sudden death or murder, he said it was an operational matter and the police would give an official statement on the matter.
According to an early report by South Korean Yonhap news agency reported on Tuesday, citing a government source, the man killed was North Korea leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam. He was attacked at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur airport by two unidentified women who stabbed him with “poisoned needles” on Monday morning and fled away in a taxi, according to TV Chosun, a South Korean nationwide general cable TV network and broadcasting company.
On speculation that North Korea was behind the death of Jong-nam, Ahmad Zahid said it was merely speculation.
Ahmad Zahid also gave an assurance on the safety at Malaysia's airports, including KL International Airport 2 (klia2), saying it was at the highest level and that the death was an isolated case.
In Jong-nam's case, he said, the Malaysian authorities were monitoring the footage of CCTV cameras and would be getting details from those arrested.
Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Un are both sons of former leader Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011, but they had different mothers.
Kim Jong Nam was believed to be close to his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was North Korea's second-most powerful man before being executed on Kim Jong Un's orders in 2013.
In the 1990s, Kim Jong-nam was thought to be the heir to Kim Jong Il to lead North Korea until his aunt, Song Hye-rang, sister of Jong-nam’s mother and sister-in-law of Kim Jong Il, fled North Korea in 1996, according to doopedia, a Korean language encyclopedia published by Doosan Donga.
Kim Jong-nam’s chances to succeed his father further took a blow when he tried entering Tokyo Disneyland using a fake passport in May 2001.
Kim was known to have spent quite an amount of his time living outside North Korea and spoke out publicly against the third-generation succession in 2010, before Kim Jong-un had succeeded their father. He had also suspected he was a target of assassination by North Korean agents.