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Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un’s half-brother pleaded for his life following 2012 assassination attempt, say Seoul MPs

Jong-nam, believed to have ties with Beijing’s elite, was a relatively outspoken figure, publicly criticising Pyongyang’s political system

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2017, 1:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2017, 10:49pm

The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has been murdered in Malaysia, pleaded for his life to be spared after a failed assassination bid in 2012, lawmakers briefed by Seoul’s spy chief said on Wednesday.

Kim Jong-nam died after reportedly being attacked by two women believed to be North Korean agents at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday.

Jong-nam, the eldest son of the late former leader Kim Jong-il, was once seen as heir apparent but fell out of favour following an embarrassing botched bid in 2001 to enter Japan on a forged passport and visit Disneyland.

We have nowhere to go ... we know that the only way to escape is suicide
Kim Jong-nam’s letter to Kim Jong-un

He has since lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau, while Jong-un took over the isolated, nuclear-armed state after the death of his father in December 2011.

The North in 2012 tried to assassinate Jong-nam – known to be a supporter of reform in Pyongyang – Seoul lawmakers said following a closed-door briefing by the chief of the National Intelligence Service, Lee Byung-ho.

“According to [Lee] ... there was one [assassination] bid in 2012, and Jong-nam in April 2012 sent a letter to Jong-un saying ‘Please spare me and my family’,” said Kim Byung-kee, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee.

“It also said: ‘We have nowhere to go ... we know that the only way to escape is suicide’,” he said, adding Jong-Nam had little political support at home and posed little threat to Jong-un.

Jong-nam’s family – his former and current wives and three children – are currently living in Beijing and Macau, said another committee member, Lee Cheol-woo.

“They are under the protection by the Chinese authorities,” he said, adding Jong-nam had entered Malaysia on February 6, a week before his death.

Watch: North Korean leader’s brother killed in Malaysia

Jong-nam’s murder is the highest-profile death under the Kim Jong-un’s regime since the execution of the leader’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in December 2013.

Jang, known to be close to China and an advocate of economic reform in the North, was charged with treason.

Jong-nam, believed to have ties with Beijing’s elite, was a relatively outspoken figure, publicly criticising Pyongyang’s political system.

The 45-year-old said he “personally opposed” the hereditary power transfer in his own family, during an interview with Japan’s Asahi TV in 2010.

One of his sons – Han-sol – also described his uncle, Jong-un, as a “dictator” in a rare interview with a Finnish TV station in 2012 while he was studying in Europe.