PBS Frontline Airs “North Korea’s Deadly Dictator”

Over at the PBS Frontline website their latest program “North Korea’s Deadly Dictator” can be watched. The program focuses on the assassination of Kim Jong-nam and has a number of interviews with his friends that he went to school with in Europe.  Former North Korean diplomat turned defector Thae Yong-ho and ex-CIA analyst Su Mi Terry also features heavily in the program.

It appears the reason for the assassination was Kim Jong-nam’s criticism of Kim Jong-un combined with the fact that based on his friends’ testimony he planned to move to Switzerland and defect to the West.  For those that regularly read this site there is really nothing new in the program, however for those not familiar with the issue it is a great run down on who Kim Jong-nam was and why his half brother Kim Jong-un is doing the things he has done.

How Female Assassin Siti Aisyah was Recruited By North Korean Agents to Murder Kim Jong-nam

Here is an interesting article from GQ magazine of all places that provides an in-depth look at how

Siti Aisyah, left, and Doan Thi Huong, the women recruited for the murder plot.

The female assassins had been identified on the CCTV footage with almost comic ease—the Vietnamese woman’s white jumper, adorned with LOL, proved easy to track through the grainy footage. Catching her was simple, too: Doan Thi Huong, 29, was arrested the day after the killing, when she returned to the airport. She had been born in a rural Vietnamese village, had her dreams of celebrity dashed when she lasted 20 seconds on Vietnam Idol, and ended up working as an escort in Hanoi, where she’d been recruited by an undercover North Korean agent.

At 2 A.M. the morning after the murder, Malaysian police marched through the dank hallways of the Flamingo Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, in which stained springless mattresses leaned against walls to air out during the day. In a third-floor room, the second alleged assassin, a 25-year-old from Indonesia named Siti Aisyah, had just finished servicing a Malaysian man and sent him on his way when the officers burst through the unlocked door.

From the CCTV footage, Doan’s and Siti’s guilt seemed clear until, under interrogation, they both separately explained that they thought they’d merely slathered Jong-nam with a harmless liquid for a hidden-camera TV show.  (………)

While both women’s lives followed a remarkably similar lopsided arc of disappointment from remote hamlets to seedy nightclubs to prison cells where they now face death, it was Siti’s footprints that I tracked across Asia because, having lived for three years in Indonesia, I had met dozens of vulnerable migrant women who could have suffered her fate. I felt like there was bound to be more to the story than the Malaysian police had reported. And sure enough, the truth I ultimately discovered was far more complicated than I ever could have imagined.

Siti was recruited by the North Koreans at 3 A.M. on January 5, 2017, outside a notorious bar in Kuala Lumpur. On paper, she worked as a masseuse in the Flamingo Hotel’s spa, but when I visited in July, a worker immediately asked, “You want to sleep with a Thai or Indonesian girl?” Later, one of Siti’s friends laughed when I said I’d heard she’d given massages there, declaring, “She was totally sex!”  [GQ Magazine]

You can read the rest of the elaborate scheme the North Koreans put together to recruit Aisyah to conduct the supposed comedy pranks.  Here is a very insightful part of the article:

Nam explained, “Pyongyang wanted to horrify the rest of the world by releasing a chemical weapon at an airport.” By unleashing such weaponry in a place symbolically shared by the global community—an international airport—North Korea was warning everyone not to cross it. As Nam concluded, “Jong-un wants to reign a long time and negotiate as a superpower. The only way to do that is to keep the world in fear of his weapons. He has a grand design, and this is part of it.”

In the end, Pyongyang suffered no significant consequences from the assassination. The people on death row for the murder are two Southeast Asian women, whom Nam believes are not guilty.

This is something world government will have to consider, in response to a preemptive strike against North Korea they could retaliate by releasing VX nerve agents in international airports.  If people thought the aftermath of 9-11 was bad for the airline industry could you imagine what would happen if multiple airports are targeted with VX nerve agents?

Kim Jong-nam Murdered to Stop Chinese Sponsored Coup?

It has long been suspected that the Chinese government kept close ties with Kim Jong-nam as sort of a Plan B if needed in North Korea.  According to the below article Kim Jong-nam made sure a Chinese Plan B could never happen after he got word of a possible coup:

Kim Jong-nam

When Kim Jong Nam was killed with a deadly nerve agent in an airport in Malaysia in February, it may have thwarted an attempt backed by the Chinese government to overthrow his half-brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Citing three sources, Nikkei Asian Review reported on Monday that top government officials in China and North Korea in 2012 seriously considered a plot to remove Kim Jong Un.

Nikkei reports that Hu Jintao, China’s president at the time, met with Kim Jong Un’s uncle, who floated the idea of replacing him with his half-brother, a politically unmotivated gambler.

But because of a recent scandal involving the death of the son of one of Hu’s advisers, the Chinese leader did not immediately act.

According to the report, a top adviser to Jiang Zemin, Hu’s predecessor and rival, caught wind of the plot and informed Kim Jong Un, who in 2013 had his uncle executed and purged several officials with ties to China.  [American Military News]

You can read more at the link.

Report Claims Kim Jong-nam Killed for Having Contact with US Intelligence Agency

There were reports out there that Kim Jong-nam was running short on cash in Macau so a US intelligence agency trying to take advantage of this seems possible.  It also seems very possible that this would give Kim Jong-nam the excuse he needed to take out his brother as well:

KIM Jong Nam’s alleged ties with a US intelligence agency contact may have been the reason behind his spy novel-like assassination, Malaysian authorities said.

According to Japanese daily The Asahi Shimbun, Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was carrying US$120,000 when he was killed in February at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) and is believed to have received the money from the contact.

Malaysian investigators said Jong Nam had met with an American man who is believed to have links with a US intelligence agency during his eight-day trip in the Southeast Asian country. This, they said, may have prompted North Korea to silence Jong Nam.

Quoting unnamed sources, The Asahi Shimbun report said Jong Nam received the money during his time in Malaysia and had not planned to declare the cash when leaving the country. The authorities also said there were no records of Jong Nam making any large cash withdrawals from Malaysia.

A check of Jong Nam’s belongings, however, revealed wads of cash – all in US currency and in four bundles of US$100 bills – in his black carry-on bag,  [Asian Correspondent]

You can read more at the link.

Malaysia Cuts Deal to Return Body of Kim Jong-nam to North Korea

Even in death Kim Jong-nam could not escape North Korea:

Malaysia put the body of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a plane to Pyongyang on Thursday, in a deal that secured the release of its citizens there and ended a drawnout diplomatic spat.

U.S. and South Korean intelligence sources say North Korea masterminded the deadly attack on Kim Jong Nam last month using VX nerve agent, a chemical so toxic that it is on a U.N. list of weapons of mass destruction.

The attack outraged Malaysia and sparked a diplomatic row with North Korea, resulting in travel bans on both sides and a collapse in their long-standing friendly ties.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the nine Malaysians barred from leaving North Korea had been allowed to board a plane out, adding on Twitter that they were expected to reach Kuala Lumpur at 5 a.m. local time on Friday (2100 GMT Thursday).

The Malaysians left Pyongyang in a Royal Malaysian Air Force business jet, which headed immediately west out of North Korean airspace before turning south toward Malaysia, according to flight tracking website planefinder.net.  [Reuters]

You can read more at the link, but it appears the hostage taking of the Malaysian diplomatic personnel in Pyongyang worked.

Malaysia Cancels Visa Waiver Program with North Korea and Releases Murder Suspect

Considering North Korea’s long criminal history it makes you wonder why the Malaysian government had a visa waiver program with North Korea in the first place?:

North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Malaysia has canceled its visa waiver arrangement with North Korea amid a diplomatic spat over the assassination of the half brother of the North’s leader, a news report said Thursday.

The cancellation will take effect on March 6, after which North Koreans entering Malaysia will be required to obtain a visa, Malaysian news agency Bernama quoted the country’s deputy prime minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, as saying. He cited national security as the reason.

This marks Malaysia’s first tangible action taken against Pyongyang following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.  [Yonhap]

Here is the other development regarding the Kim Jong-nam murder case:

Malaysia has decided to release and deport Ri Jong-chol, a 47-year-old North Korean suspect, due to a lack of incriminating evidence, AP reported.

Four North Korean suspects are believed to have fled Malaysia on the day of Kim Jong-nam’s death while three others, including Hyon Kwang-song, the second secretary at the North’s embassy in Malaysia, are wanted for questioning.  [Yonhap]

I was curious to why Ri Jong-chol did not flee like the other North Korean agents if he was in fact part of the murder plot.  Considering Malaysian authorities had no evidence to convict him it appears he was not involved.

Kim Jong-nam Assassin Was Once A Contestant on Vietnamese Version of American Idol

As if the murder of Kim Jong-nam could not get any more bizarre, now the VX nerve agent wielding assassin Doan Thi Huong has been identified as an aspiring singer who appeared recently on Vietnam’s version of American Idol:

A woman believed to be Huong appeared on the Vietnamese version of Pop Idol

Doan Thi Huong’s site features pouting party pictures including a snap of her wearing a shirt emblazoned ‘LOL’  similar to the one on the fleeing suspect caught on CCTV.

The photos were released amid claims she once starred on the Vietnamese version of Pop Idol.

The 28-year-old worked at a popular party venue, according to Malaysian police who have arrested her over the murder of Kim Jong Nam at a Malaysian airport .

On a rice farm in northern Vietnam, her family said they had hardly heard from her since she left home a decade ago aged just 18.

“At first we doubted it was her when we saw the picture with the ‘LOL’ shirt,” said stepmother Nguyen Thi Vy .

“But when someone bought a clearer picture here, we knew it was our Huong.

“If she committed the crime, she has to suffer, we can’t do anything… but I think she must have been set up by someone.”

Huong’s brother Doan Van Binh said he knew little about his sister’s life after she left the village.

“I encouraged her to study and earn money so that her future would be good,” he said.

“My family is very sad. We all thought she was in a good place.”

Huong posted to Facebook under the name Ruby Ruby, according to her 18-year-old niece, Dinh Thi Quyen.

The last post on a Facebook page – released by the respected AP news agency – is dated February 11 from Kampong Besut, Malaysia.

“I want to sleep more but by your side,” the post reads above a picture of her, eyes closed and wrapped up in bed.  [The UK Sun]

You can read much more about Huong at the link, but here is what Huong looks like when not covered in make up and wearing a LOL shirt:

A photo released by Malaysian police of Huong in custody