KUALA LUMPUR (AFP, REUTERS) – Malaysia has used a DNA sample from Mr Kim Jong Nam’s child to confirm the identity of the assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, deputy prime minister said on Wednesday (March 15).
Investigators “confirmed the identity of the body as Kim Jong Nam based on the sample obtained from his child”, said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
It was unclear who among Mr Kim's children Datuk Seri Zahid was referring to.
Mr Kim Jong Nam was murdered on Feb 13, when two women smeared super toxic VX nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Seoul has blamed Pyongyang for his death, but the North has rejected those claims and has never confirmed the identity of the victim, who was carrying a passport bearing the name of Kim Chol when he was attacked.
No next-of-kin has come forward to claim the body.
Malaysia officially confirmed his identity on Friday, but refused to say whether authorities had obtained a DNA sample from a next-of-kin.
Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said at the time that concerns “for the security of the witnesses” prevented him from revealing further details.
The killing triggered a bitter row between Malaysia and North Korea, which have expelled each other’s ambassadors and refused to let their citizens leave.
Pyongyang has denounced the Malaysian investigation as an attempt to smear the secretive regime, insisting that he most likely died of a heart attack.
Mr Kim’s wife and children, who were living in exile in the Chinese territory of Macau, staged a vanishing act after the murder. There are fears his 21-year-old son, Kim Han Sol, could be targeted next.
In what may be the first comments by the family since Mr Kim’s death, a young man identifying himself as Mr Kim Han Sol appeared in a video that circulated last week. The claim was later verified by South Korea’s intelligence agency.
But he did not reveal his whereabouts or offer to claim his father’s body, which was embalmed recently to stop it decomposing as it lies in a morgue in Kuala Lumpur.
Investigators are seeking seven North Korean suspects, four of whom left Malaysia on the day of the murder. The police chief has said he believes the other three are hiding in North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Three Malaysian embassy staff and six family members are stranded in Pyongyang after North Korea barred Malaysians from leaving the country last week, prompting a tit-for-tat move by Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Zahid said the government was negotiating with “an open heart and (an) open mind” to end the issue and was “looking into all possibilities”, including swapping the North Korean suspects for the nine stranded Malaysians.
Malaysia also used fingerprints, obtained by the Japanese government following a failed attempt by Mr Kim to enter the country and visit Disneyland in 2001, to determine his identity, said Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed.
“We... got the fingerprint samples from Japanese authorities. We used as many identification markers as possible to confirm the identity of Kim Jong Nam,” Mr Nur Jazlan told AFP.
Two women – one Vietnamese and one Indonesian – have been arrested and charged with the murder. Airport CCTV footage shows them approaching the victim and apparently smearing his face with a piece of cloth.