Pyongyang officials organised killing, says Seoul spy agency

South Korean intelligence officials said officials from North Korea's secret police and Foreign Ministry were involved in the killing of the estranged half-brother of the country's leader, Kim Jong Nam.
South Korean intelligence officials said officials from North Korea's secret police and Foreign Ministry were involved in the killing of the estranged half-brother of the country's leader, Kim Jong Nam. PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL • Officials from North Korea's secret police and Foreign Ministry were involved in the killing of the estranged half-brother of the country's leader, South Korean intelligence officials say.

Ever since Mr Kim Jong Nam was first reported assassinated in Malaysia, the South Korean government has held Pyongyang responsible.

On Monday, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in Seoul gave more details of what it described as state-sponsored terrorism, saying that four of the eight North Koreans identified as suspects by the Malaysian authorities were agents from North Korea's Ministry of State Security, the country's secret police.

At a closed-door parliamentary hearing on Monday, NIS director Lee Byung Ho said two other suspects worked for the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The remaining two were affiliated with Air Koryo, the North's state-run airline company, and Singwang Economics and Trading General Corp, Mr Lee said, according to two lawmakers who attended the briefing.

The Malaysian authorities have said Mr Kim was killed by an extremely toxic nerve agent known as VX and listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.

They said the North Koreans had hired and trained two women, one from Indonesia, the other from Vietnam, to attack Mr Kim at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2. The women smeared his face with the chemical while he was waiting to check in for a flight to Macau.

The two women are now in police custody in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Lee was quoted by lawmakers as saying the eight North Koreans, working in two four-member teams, converged in Kuala Lumpur to carry out the Feb 13 killing.

He said Mr Ri Jae Nam, a state security agent, and Mr Ri Ji Hyon, from the Foreign Ministry, had brought the Vietnamese woman, 28-year-old Doan Thi Huong, into the plot, while the Indonesian woman, 25-year-old Siti Aisyah, was hired by Mr O Jong Gil, a state security agent, and by Mr Hong Song Hac, a Foreign Ministry official.

The four North Koreans who made up the assassination team left Malaysia the same day Mr Kim was killed and are believed to be back in their country, Mr Lee was quoted as saying. Malaysian police have confirmed their departure.

The killing has sparked a diplomatic stand-off between the two usually friendly countries, with Malaysia refusing to hand over Mr Kim's body to North Korea before it is officially identified by the victim's next of kin.

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Pyongyang officials organised killing, says Seoul spy agency'. Print Edition | Subscribe