North Korea has tried to block an autopsy of Kim Jong-Un's assassinated half-brother after ordering Malaysia to hand over his body, it emerged today.
Kim Jong-Nam was reportedly killed by two female Pyongyang operatives who grabbed him from behind and poisoned him at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday.
Stooges from Kim Jong-Un's North Korean embassy were seen in a car with blacked-out windows outside the city morgue where his body was taken - and waited there so long they eventually ordered a KFC meal, it has been claimed.
Officials including North Korea's ambassador, Kang Chol, spent hours failing to convince Malaysian authorities to hand over the body and their demands to stop the autopsy being performed were also ignored.
Police probing the death this morning arrested a woman posing as a Vietnamese national calling herself Doan Thi Huong.
They swooped after recognising her from CCTV footage from the airport of a woman in a white shirt with LOL written on the front. She is believed to be a North Korean spy.
But police are still hunting a 'few' other foreign suspects over the Cold War-style poison attack on Jong-nam on Monday morning, it has emerged.
Grainy pictures purportedly show the woman standing at the terminal waiting for a taxi.
Earlier reports suggested Jong-nam was targeted by two suspected female North Korean operatives who apparently attacked him from behind with poison spray.
The 46-year-old, who had branded his younger brother's regime a 'joke', was allegedly poisoned while waiting for a flight and died on his way to hospital.
There were claims he had been attacked by two women – suspected North Korean agents – who sprayed a toxic chemical in his face.
The assassination, which came as North Korea readied to celebrate the birthday this week of the two men's father, illustrates the 'brutal and inhumane' nature of the Pyongyang regime led by Kim Jong-Un, Seoul said.
The head of the NIS, the South Korean equivalent of the CIA, told parliament today that North Korea had been plotting to kill Kim since at least 2012 and that Kim Jong-un was paranoid about his half-brother.
He said: 'After Kim Jong-un came to power, he gave a standing order that Kim Jong-nam had to be taken care of, at all costs.'
And there were reports today that the North may have acted now amid fears Jong-Nam was plotting to defect to the South having served, in the 2000s, as a middleman between disgraced current South Korean President Park Geun-hye and officials in Pyongyang.
Some reports have suggested the assassins held a cloth doused in chemicals in his face and burned his eyes, or stabbed him with a poisoned needle. US sources said a fountain pen may have been used to spray the poison.
This morning it was reported that the taxi driver who transported the women away from the airport has been arrested. He is said to have told police that one of the women was Vietnamese.
The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un pleaded for his life to be spared after a failed assassination bid in 2012, lawmakers briefed by Seoul's spy chief said today.
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.
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,'' Kim Byung-Kee, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters.
'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.
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.
The mystery woman captured on CCTV, with shoulder-length hair, was heavily made up, wearing a handbag with a long strap over her left shoulder.
The image, released by the Malay Mail is believed to have been taken outside a secondary terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport from which regional flights come and go.
The apparent hit follows previous botched attempts to kill Jong-nam, 45, who was estranged from his 33-year-old brother and regarded as a potential threat to his leadership.
It also comes days after international condemnation of North Korea's latest missile test.
The agents are said to have attacked Jong-nam on Monday after taking advantage of a security loophole between his bodyguards and local police, which left him momentarily unguarded at Kuala Lumpur airport.
'The deceased ... felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind ... he felt dizzy,' Malaysian police official Fadzil Ahmat said.
'So far there are no suspects, but we have started investigations and are looking at a few possibilities to get leads.'
He said a post-mortem examination would be carried out, adding: 'We don't know if there was a cloth or needles.'
It looks like a perfectly staged assassination, straight out of the pages of a spy novel: North Korean royalty Kim Jong Nam, the estranged, exiled half-brother of leader Kim Jong Un, falls ill at a Malaysian airport, complains of being sprayed with some sort of chemical, and drops dead.
But, as with many things about the alleged motives of cloistered North Korea, the unknowns currently far outweigh the certainties.
A look at what officials are trying to piece together as they work to reconstruct one of the most audacious, mysterious assassinations in recent Asian history
Kim Jong Nam, a jovial, overweight gambler and playboy, had embarrassed Pyongyang before - he tried to sneak into Tokyo Disney; he criticized his half-brother - but he's been generally seen more as an annoyance than an existential threat to North Korea's stability.
Why would Kim Jong Un go through the massive logistical trouble - and potential embarrassment - of staging the risky assassination of a blood relation on foreign soil?
Without elaborating, South Korea's spy service told lawmakers Wednesday that the North had been trying to kill Kim Jong Nam for five years. Spy officials offered a single, shaky motive for the death: Kim Jong Un's "paranoia" over his estranged brother.
But the South's National Intelligence Service has a long history of botching intelligence on North Korea and has long sought to portray the North's leadership as mentally unstable.
Some in Seoul wonder if Kim Jong Un might have become enraged when a South Korean newspaper reported last week that Kim Jong Nam tried to defect to the South in 2012. South Korea's spy service denied this, but it's still an open question: Could public speculation that a member of the exalted Kim dynasty wanted to flee to the hated South have pushed Kim Jong Un to order his brother's assassination?
There would seem to be easier, less public places to kill such a high-profile target.
A possible explanation might be found in another nugget provided by South Korea's spy agency: China had long protected Kim Jong Nam and his family in their home base of Macau. Analysts have seen Beijing as looking to Kim Jong Nam as a potential leader should North Korea's regime collapse.
With security, presumably overseen by China, tight in Macau, could there have been a security gap in Malaysia that offered North Korean assassins an opportunity they couldn't have gotten elsewhere?
The details of the attack itself are a tangled mess as of now.
Kim told medical workers that he'd been sprayed with a chemical, which brings to mind past attacks with poison-tipped pens linked to North Korean assassins.
South Korea's spy agency says two women believed to be North Korean agents attacked Kim. They then reportedly fled. Japanese media quoted the government in Tokyo as saying those women may now be dead. None of this has been confirmed yet.
Still, finding out who these women are and who hired them could go a long way to unlocking the mystery.
North Korea has said nothing officially about the death, but that's not unusual. The country's propaganda specialists are masters at reporting only details that lionize the Kim family as paragons of virtue. This clearly doesn't do that.
China may be angry at the killing of a close North Korean contact, so there could be some sort of reaction, possibly back-channel, from Beijing.
But a more concrete punishment could come from Washington.
Cheong Seong-Chang, a South Korean analyst, said the assassination might convince the U.S. Congress to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, further isolating the already widely shunned country.
North Korean government officials are said to have demanded the body, but Malaysian police say a local post-mortem examination must be carried out first.
There is heavy security at Putrajaya Hospital today where witnesses say they saw a mortuary vehicle being escorted by up to four police cars just before 9am today.
More than a hundred journalists outside have been denied access and are having their questions ignored, it has been reported.
However, it has been confirmed that the body is going to be moved for autopsy, which will take place in heavy security at the large Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL).
An unnamed hospital staff member at Putrajaya is quoted as saying: 'Specialists said that Putrajaya Hospital is not adapted for an autopsy and that Kim Jong-nam's body is being moved to HKL, which is more spacious and has better facilities.'
Witnesses said they saw three vehicles from the North Korean embassy at HKL.
Local police chief Abu Samah Mat said Jong-nam went to the airport clinic complaining that he had been sprayed with a liquid, and died on his way to Putrajaya Hospital south of the capital.
In Pyongyang, celebrations had begun for Thursday's anniversary of the birth of Kim Jong-Il, Jong-Nam's father, with no mention of the killing.
Around 3,000 uniformed government officials and women in traditional dresses gathered for an ice skating gala featuring North Korean and foreign skaters. Banners proclaiming 'peace', 'independence' and 'friendship' hung in the venue.
Would-be North Korean assassins have been caught with poisoned needles in the past – which can be hidden inside pens – and an anonymous US official said a similar device could not be ruled out.
South Korea's foreign ministry could not confirm the allegations last night, and several previous reports of executions involving supposed enemies of the North Korean state have proved unreliable.
Jong-nam was the eldest son of former leader Kim Jong-il from his affair with South Korean-born actress Song Hye-rim.
He was once seen as heir apparent but fell out of favour after an embarrassing failed attempt in 2001 to visit Tokyo Disneyland on a forged passport.
Jong-nam has since lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau, as well as Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and France.
A failed attempt to sneak into Japan to visit Disneyland in 2001 may have doomed the leadership dreams of the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who was assassinated this week in an airport in Malaysia.
Banished from his dictator father's favour, the exiled Kim Jong Nam frequented casinos, five-star hotels and travelled around Asia, with little say in North Korean affairs.
That ended on Monday when he was killed in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Officials in South Korea say they believe the attack was carried out by North Korean agents.
Despite multiple reported assassination attempts over the years, Kim Jong Nam was still a member of the most important family in North Korea, a direct blood descendent of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.
Estranged for years from his relatives, the 45-year-old gambler and playboy played a key, if complicated role in the dynasty that has ruled for three generations since North Korea's foundation in 1948.
Kim Jong Nam is the eldest son of Kim Jong Il, the second member of the Kim family to rule North Korea. Kim Jong Il had three known sons with two different women. Jong Nam was born from his father's unofficial relationship with North Korean actress Sung Hae Rim.
Kim Jong Il forced Sung to divorce her first husband and live with him, but Kim Il Sung - the first leader of North Korea and Kim Jong Il's father - never accepted Sung as his daughter-in-law. Kim Jong Il reportedly kept Kim Jong Nam's 1971 birth a secret from his father for several years. Sung was reportedly forced to leave North Korea and died in Moscow in 2002.
Despite his mother's exile, some foreign experts believed that Kim Jong Nam would end up inheriting power because of a traditional Korean value system that favors the eldest son as heir.
Unlike his mother, Kim Jong Nam eventually won the affection of his grandfather, who died in 1994, according to South Korean media reports.
Kim Jong Nam's two younger brothers share a mother: Kim Jong Il's Japan-born mistress, the dancer Ko Yong Hui.
Ko's links to Japan, which colonized the Korean Peninsula in the early part of the 20th century, led some to believe that Kim Jong Nam would outpace his siblings in the succession race. Ko immigrated to North Korea in the 1960s from Japan, where she had lived among the ethnic Korean minority. She died in Paris in 2004.
Kim Jong Un eventually won the succession race and became the North's supreme leader in late 2011 upon the death of his father. Believed to be in his early 30s, Kim Jong Un has carried out a series of high-profile executions and purges, and outside experts say few can now challenge his rule.
Kim Jong Nam's other half-brother, Kim Jong Chol, was once viewed by some outsiders as a potential candidate for leader. But a former sushi chef of Kim Jong Il said the late leader derided the middle son, known as a huge fan of rock guitarist Eric Clapton, as 'girlish.'
The brothers also had at least two known sisters. One is Kim Yo Jong, who shares a mother with Kim Jong Un and who is currently working as a top propaganda official.
Another sister, Kim Sol Song, was born from Kim Jong Il's relationship with another woman, Kim Yong Sok. There has been little information about Kim Sol Song, but unconfirmed rumors in the South say she is being detained.
Kim Jong Nam's aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, is Kim Jong Il's younger sister. She was reportedly behind the expulsion of Kim Jong Nam's mother to the then Soviet Union in the 1970s. Kim Kyong Hui and her husband Jang Song Thaek then acted as Kim Jong Nam's caretaker.
Kim Jong Nam's aunt, Kim Kyong Hui (front, centre), is Kim Jong Il's younger sister
But Jong Nam gradually lost favor with his father. He reportedly spent too much money at a Pyongyang hotel and made wild shopping excursions to China. When he was detained in Tokyo for trying to enter the country with a fake Dominican passport, he sported a diamond-encrusted Rolex watch and carried wads of cash.
Kim Kyong Hui and Jang were believed to have played a major role in grooming Kim Jong Un as the next leader.
After Kim Jong Un took power, the two initially enjoyed great power. Jang was seen as the country's No.2 until he was stripped of all posts and executed in a sudden purge for alleged treason in 2013. Kim Kyong Hui, who was reportedly seriously ill, disappeared from the public eye.
Malaysia is one of the only countries North Koreans can visit without a visa – although Jong-nam was using a passport with a false name for the flight back to Macau.
A Malaysian police statement confirmed the death of a 46-year-old North Korean man whom it identified from his travel document as Kim Chol, born in Pyongyang. 'Investigation is in progress and a post mortem examination request has been made to ascertain the cause of death,' the statement said.
Ken Gause, at the CNA think tank in Washington who has studied North Korea's leadership for 30 years, said Kim Chol was a name that Kim Jong Nam has traveled under. He is believed to have been born May 10, 1971, although birthdays are always unclear for senior North Koreans, Gause said.
It was claimed Jong-Nam funded a lavish lifestyle thanks to benefits from building projects set up by his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who has since been executed by the regime.
After Jong-nam's brother became North Korean leader following the death of their father in December 2011, the exile told a Japanese newspaper that the new regime was 'a joke to the outside world'.
He added: 'The Kim Jong-un regime will not last long. Without reforms, North Korea will collapse.' He also claimed he opposed the hereditary transition of power. Cheong Seong-jang, a researcher at Seoul's Sejong Institute think-tank, said it was possible Jong-nam had been assassinated for damaging his brother's authority. He added that the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea's intelligence agency, had been 'closely watching' Jong-nam.
Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul, said Jong-nam had occasionally been the subject of speculation that he could replace his brother.
'Loyalists may have wanted to get rid of him,' he added.
North Korean spies reportedly attempted to kill Jong-nam in Macau in 2011, resulting in a bloody shoot-out with his bodyguards.
Kim's killing is thought to be the highest-profile death under the Jong-Un regime since the execution of the leader's uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, in December 2013.
Jong-Un has been trying to strengthen his grip on power in the face of growing international pressure over his country's nuclear and missile programmes, and regular reports have emerged on purges and executions.
Jong-Nam, known as an advocate of reform in the North, once told Japanese reporters that he opposed his country's dynastic system.
They used to call him the 'Little General' but Kim Jong-Nam - once heir-apparent to his father and North Korea's then-leader Kim Jong-Il - fell from grace in 2001 after a spectacular blunder.
On Tuesday, after more than a decade in exile from the North, Jong-Nam - the 45-year-old half-brother of current leader Kim Jong-Un - was widely reported by South Korean media to have been assassinated in Malaysia.
Born from his father's relationship with actress Sung Hae-rim, Jong-Nam is known to have been a computer enthusiast, a fluent Japanese speaker and a student in both Russia and Switzerland.
He lived in Pyongyang after finishing his overseas studies and was put in charge of overseeing North Korea's information technology policy.
But the chubby eldest son of the supreme leader was already seen by Seoul experts as something of a political lightweight when in 2001 he fell out of favour.
He was embarrassingly detained at a Tokyo airport, trying to enter Japan to visit Disneyland on a false Dominican Republic passport, accompanied by two women and a child.
Jong-Nam and his family afterwards lived in virtual exile in Macau, Singapore and China.
Jong-Nam's half-brother Jong-Un took over as North Korean leader when their father died in December 2011.
In an email exchange with a Japanese journalist published in 2012, Jong-Nam spoke disparagingly of Jong-Un, saying he lacked 'any sense of duty or seriousness' and warned that bribery and corruption would lead to North Korea's eventual collapse.
In another exchange with the same reporter in 2012, Jong-Nam said: 'Anyone with normal thinking would find it difficult to tolerate three generations of hereditary succession.'
In October 2012 South Korean prosecutors said a North Korean detained as a spy had admitted involvement in a plot to stage a hit-and-run car accident in China in 2010 targeting Jong-Nam.
In 2014 Jong-Nam was reported to be in Indonesia - sighted at an Italian restaurant run by a Japanese businessman in Jakarta - and was said to be shuttling back and forth between Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and France.
In 2012 a Moscow newspaper reported that Jong-Nam was having financial problems after being cut off by the Stalinist state for doubting its succession policy.
The Argumenty i Fakty weekly said he was kicked out of a luxury hotel in Macau over a $15,000 debt.
Jong-Nam's son Kim Han-Sol studied at university in Paris. Back in 2012, when at school in Bosnia, he labelled his uncle Kim Jong-Un a 'dictator' in an interview.
'My dad (Jong-Nam) was not really interested in politics,' Kim told the interviewer when asked why his father was passed over for the dynastic succession in favour of his younger brother.
n a 2012 interview from his school in Bosnia, a 17-year-old Kim Han-Sol, Jong-Nam's son, said his father had been passed over for succession because he 'was not really interested in politics'.
'I don't really know why he became a dictator,' Kim said of his uncle Kim Jong-Un. 'It was between him and my grandfather.'
It emerged Wednesday that Jong-Nam had pleaded with his younger brother for his life to be spared after an earlier assassination attempt.
'Jong-Nam in April 2012 sent a letter to Jong-Un saying "Please spare me and my family,"' Kim Byung-Kee, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters.
'It also said "We have nowhere to go... we know that the only way to escape is suicide"', he said, after a closed-door briefing by Seoul's spy chief.
Cheong Seong-Chang of the independent Sejong Institute in Seoul said the assassination was 'unthinkable without a direct order or approval from Kim Jong-Un himself'.
Kim Jong-Nam was once considered heir apparent but fell out of favour with his father Kim Jong-Il following a botched attempt in 2001 to enter Japan on a forged passport and visit Disneyland
His killing was likely motivated by a recent news report that Kim Jong-Nam had sought to defect to the EU, the US or South Korea as far back as in 2012, he said.
Mark Tokola, vice president of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington and a former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, said it would be surprising if Kim Jong Nam was not killed on the orders of his brother, given that North Korean agents have reportedly tried to assassinate Kim Jong Nam in the past.
'It seems probable that the motivation for the murder was a continuing sense of paranoia on the part of Kim Jong Un,' Tokola wrote in a commentary Tuesday.
Although there was scant evidence that Kim Jong Nam was plotting against the North Korean leader, he provided an alternative for North Koreans who would want to depose his brother.
t was a secret affair that was so sensitive it was air-brushed from history in reclusive North Korea.
Kim Jong-il, the country's late dictator started a relationship with married actress Song Hye-rim - a star of her time - in the 1960s.
He wanted to keep the affair from his father and founder of North Korea's ruling dynasty Kim Il-Sung.
But Jong-Il would go on to father a son with the actress in 1971, naming him Kim Jong-nam.
Intelligence sources have verified reports of Kim Jong-il's liaisons with Song, Song Hye-rim, who died in exile in Russia in 2002. She was one of the country's first big movie stars, with legions of fans including film buff Kim Jong-il.
Another star of the day, celebrated dancer Kim Young-soon - who escaped to South Korea in 2003 - has revealed how she was jailed for 'gossiping' about the affair.
One day, she met Song who said she was moving into a place in Pyongyang called 'special residence number five' - a home reserved for the family of the ruling Kim clan.
She knew what it meant. Her friend was to become Kim's wife.
In other words, not only was Kim Jong-il forcing a woman six years older to divorce her husband to move in with him but, more riskily, he was rejecting the communist revolutionary his father had chosen for him to produce heirs for the ruling dynasty.
Kim Young-soon became a criminal by repeating the story, losing her family, her privileged status and living for decades at the mercy of the North's security apparatus.
She had not realised just how far Kim Jong-il would go to keep the relationship secret.
In August 1970, Kim Young-soon was interrogated and forced to write her entire life story, including a line in one of the dozens of notebooks she filled about the conversation with Song.
She later speculated an informant had tipped off security about the marriage and her written statement confirmed it.
She was jailed for nine years and it was not until 10 years after she was released - after Kim Jong-il had apparently lost interest in Song - that she was told by a state security agent why she landed in prison.
'He told me that Song Hye-rim was not Kim Jong-il's wife and to forget what I might have heard about them having a child.'
By that time, Kim Jong-il had two other sons with a former dancer named Ko Young-hee, including current dictator Kim Jong-un.
'Once Kim Jong-il took up with his new wife Ko Young-hee, (also known as Ko Yong-hui) they went on to erase any remembrance of Song Hye-rim,' Kim Young-soon said.
Kim Jong Nam was quoted as saying in a 2012 book by a Japanese journalist: 'My father was keeping highly secret the fact that he was living with my mother who was married, a famous movie actress, so I couldn't get out of the house or make friends.
'That solitude from childhood may have made me what I am now, preferring freedom.'