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North Korea unable to cover up Kim Jong Nam's assassination

Ahn Jong Sik, Deputy Head, SBS Political Department  |  2017-02-27 15:31
The Malaysian police announced on February 19 that a group of men who recruited the Vietnamese and Indonesian women suspected of poisoning Kim Jong Nam are all North Korean nationals, lending further weight to speculation that the assassination was state-sponsored. 

Some have questioned this conclusion based on the premise that the North Korean agents used North Korean passports instead of counterfeit ones, and that too much evidence was left behind, including airport CCTV recordings in which their faces are clearly seen. The work appears amateurish when considering the standards of North Korean agents. 

North Korea's cover-up efforts

However, North Korea has vigorously tried to cover up the incident and impede investigation by the Malaysian authorities. The North Koreans are understood to have first contacted the Vietnamese and Indonesian women involved several months prior to the incident, but the agents left the country immediately after the crime. The Vietnamese suspect reported that the men who solicited her services were North Koreans with Vietnamese nationality, but she was not fully aware of their identities. Her lack of knowledge about the identity of her recruiters is expected to complicate the investigation. 

A possibility exists that the case was intended to have been concealed from the beginning. In the CCTV video, Kim Jong Nam continued walking on his own for a while after being attacked by the women. No one around him would have suspected a murder attempt, despite the strange behavior of the women. As Kim Jong Nam approached airport staff for help, even the airport medical personnel were apparently unaware of the gravity of the situation. The incident may have alternatively been overlooked and recorded as a sudden, unexpected death of a civilian. 

Kang Chol, North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia, commented during the following press conference that the Malaysian police at first allegedly notified the North Korean embassy that a person with a North Korean diplomatic passport succumbed to a natural death while being transported to a hospital after experiencing a heart attack at the airport. This implies that the Malaysian authorities initially believed that Kim Jong Nam died of a heart attack until it was later discovered that he was murdered.

Kim Jong Nam's identity immediately raised suspicions of murder

When it emerged that the victim was Kim Jong Nam, the situation changed dramatically. As a blood relative of the current leader of North Koreas dynastic totalitarian system, his sudden death inevitably raises questions.

The incident garnered scrutiny and attention internationally, galvanizing the Malaysian authorities to thoroughly investigate the matter. The speed at which the identity of the male suspects involved was revealed also suggests a potential degree of unpublicized international cooperation occurring behind the scenes.  

Traces left behind

The incident exploded on the world stage to a degree that the North Korean regime was ill-prepared for, despite arguable efforts to do so. Although the North Korean agents used North Korean passports and managed to get their faces recorded on CCTV, these are not pivotal details, as even without this evidence, the Malaysian authorities have uncovered other links with North Korea.

It was likely realized by Kim Jong Un that it was impossible to arrange the killing of his brother (who was said to be under Chinese protection) and keep the entire incident under wraps. Kim Jong Nam died in an unexpected way, but his death perhaps resulted in far more publicity than the North Koreans expected. With the influx of information pouring into North Korea from the outside world, more of its citizens are learning for the first time of Kim Jong Nams existence, prompting them to speculate on the motive for the assassination.

*Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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