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What will become of Kim Jong Nam's body once returned to North Korea?

Kim Ga Young  |  2017-02-20 18:03

The Malaysian government has expressed a willingness in principle to hand over the body of Kim Jong Nam to the North Korean authorities, prompting analysts to speculate about how the North Korean regime will treat the body.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmad Zahid has emphasized the principle of following the law, so Kim Jong Nam's body is expected to be handed over to the North Korean embassy via normal procedures. In this case, it is both possible that the North Korean embassy may elect to hold a funeral in Malaysia or immediately send the body back to North Korea.

Considering the fact that the North Korean regime does not need to bring further attention to the murder case for which it is being accused of being the perpetrator, it is highly likely that Kim Jong Nam's body will be quickly sent back to North Korea.

Most expect that his body will be repatriated to North Korea and buried without publicity, particularly if the case was indeed an assassination ordered by the North Korean regime, in order to destroy the evidence. In addition, the regime has been trying to hide Kim Jong Nam's presence from the North Korean public, so it is likely to focus on censoring any news regarding the affair.

A high-ranking North Korean defector told Daily NK on February 16, "The regime is asking for Kim Jong Nam's body not only to destroy evidence of the murder but also because it is concerned about further 'pressure on human rights issues' from the international community. The regime seems to have realized that neglecting the body of Kim Jong Il's eldest son would not look good to outside observers."

"But the North Korean regime will likely bury Kim Jong Nam's body in a hidden location shortly after receiving it, without even a gravestone to mark his tomb. Most residents without access to outside information will not be aware of Kim Jong Nams fate," the defector noted.

However, a possibility exists that the regime may choose to officially announce Kim Jong Nam's death and hold a funeral in an attempt to sidestep allegations of assassination. The regime may allege that Kim Jong Nam was killed by forces involved in 'anti-DPRK hostilities' overseas. In such a case, it is likely that the regime will announce such allegations only through external media, in order to avoid speculation amongst its population.

There is also a possibility that the regime may undertake a 'posthumous execution' of Kim Jong Nam's body, as he had publicly criticized North Korea's hereditary succession and Kim Jong Un's reign during interviews with foreign media while overseas. If claims made in some media reports are true that Kim Jong Nam refused a summoning order from Kim Jong Un to return to North Korea, it would be seen by the regime as amounting to treason.

In regards to this, South Korean Congressman Ha Tae Kyung of the Bareun Party said at an emergency National Assembly meeting last week, "The North Korean regime wants the body of Kim Jong Nam to conduct a 'posthumous execution' on it. The body of a serious traitor is usually burnt or destroyed in North Korea. Jang Song Thaek's body was also burned and mistreated."

For example, North Korea's former Agriculture Minister Kim Man Kum was accused of treason and branded a figure counter to the Party during the Shimhwajo case. His body was exhumed and decapitated as a result.

However, some point out that it will not be easy for Kim Jong Un to damage Kim Jong Nam's body while the case is at the center of international attention.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on February 16, We will facilitate requests by any foreign government, although there are procedures to be followed. Our policy is that we will honor our bilateral relations with any foreign country, indicating that Kim Jong Nam's body will ultimately be handed over to Kim's next-of-kin following legal and medical procedures.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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