Just over two weeks ago, Kim Jong-nam, the Kim family’s eldest son, was assassinated at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. While the North Korean government denies any involvement, Malaysia and South Korea have both publicly denounced Kim Jong-un for the assassination. Kim Jong-nam’s relationship with his family has always been strained, and upon the succession of his younger brother to the head of North Korea in 2011, an outstanding notice has been given for the death of Mr. Kim, as the New York Times puts it.
On Feb. 13, 2017, Mr. Kim had arrived in the airport for a flight to refuge in Macau, and while standing off from the main crowd was poisoned with a cloth by two women who rapidly fled the scene, and have since been apprehended. Shortly after, the North Korean embassy in Malaysia issued a statement not only finding fault with the autopsy, but pinning the blame on the Malaysian government for bringing harm to a ‘Korean citizen’ they identified as Kim Chol. This, combined with the assassination itself, led to massive outcry – most predominantly from Seoul, the longtime opposition to Kim Jong-un.
The current president of South Korea, Hwang Kyo-ahn, was quick to call the act, “an intolerable crime against humanity and a terrorist act”, and went on to not only decry North Korea as a cruel and reckless regime, but told cabinet members that South Korea would move to see justice done and hold the perpetrators responsible. In fact, if Mr. Hwang moves through with his plan to label the assassination as an act of terrorism, multiple nations – including the United States – could be forced to speak out against North Korea as well. The United States placed the country on its list of terrorist sponsors in 1987, when a North Korean woman confessed to the bombing of a South Korean airliner, and only recently removed North Korea in 2008 due to an anti-nuclear weapon deal. This new assassination could very well see North Korea placed back on that list.
Mr. Kim was 45 when he died en route to a Malaysian hospital. He is survived by his wife and two children.