KUALA LUMPUR • The body of Mr Kim Jong Nam, which is in the mortuary of Kuala Lumpur Hospital, could possibly be claimed over the next two weeks by the North Korean Embassy or by the country's leader, Mr Kim Jong Un, who is his kin, the New Sunday Times (NST) reported yesterday, quoting an unnamed source.
As the deceased has been positively identified by the Malaysian authorities as the estranged half- brother of Mr Kim Jong Un, "standard government protocols in handling an unclaimed body have kicked in", the newspaper said.
The daily also quoted a 2008 Ministry of Health circular that the unclaimed remains of a non-Muslim would be handed over to the relevant religious authority for final rites after 14 days.
Mr Kim Jong Nam died in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 13 after being attacked with the lethal VX nerve agent. North Korea has maintained that the dead man was its citizen Kim Chol, as identified by the passport he was carrying, and that he died of a heart attack.
But Malaysia last Friday said it had positively identified the man killed as Mr Kim Jong Nam.
The NST reported that, in the absence of a DNA sample from a relative, forensics had measured the precise locations of moles on the man's face, with several noted to be distinctive of Mr Kim Jong Nam's. Three moles lined near one of his eyes and a mole on the right of his lips were keys to making the match.
Citing an unnamed source, the daily said officials had used a known photo of the deceased to match the positions of moles scattered across his face with those of the body in the morgue.
Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said last Friday that "police were done with the body", which would be handed over to the Health Ministry. Tan Sri Khalid refused to say how the authorities managed to identify the remains as those of Mr Kim Jong Nam.
Once the body is with the Health Ministry, a family member could claim it, the NST said.
"If by any chance (Jong Un) decides to do so, the body can legally be handed over to him. In the event immediate family members come to claim it, the decision on which party will get custody will be referred to the attorney-general," the daily quoted the source as saying.
Deputy Health Minister Hilmi Yahaya said on Saturday that if the body was not claimed by his next of kin, it could be buried in Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur has, meanwhile, said it is to open negotiations with North Korea in the "next few days" to secure the release of its citizens trapped in Pyongyang following the diplomatic flap over Mr Kim Jong Nam's murder.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that there was no need for a "third party" to be involved in the bilateral stand-off. "I do not see the situation being prolonged. I believe a solution can be reached without the need for any third party," he told reporters in Sabah.
He added that, based on immigration records, there are 315 North Koreans in Malaysia.
At the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, three laptops and a desktop computer without their hard disk drives were found thrown into a rubbish pile outside the mission, The Star reported.