Killing in Malaysia Seen as Evidence of North Korea’s Illegal Acts

16 February, 2017

The apparent assassination of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has increased support for critics of the country's government.

Those critics accuse North Korea of being a state that operates outside the law. They say the government kills its enemies and depends on criminal activity for survival.

Malaysian officials continue to investigate the death of Kim Jong Nam, who was attacked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday. He died a short time later.

Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Un are sons of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Investigation into Kim Jong Nam's death continues

On Thursday, Malaysian police said they arrested a woman suspected of involvement in the killing. She is said to have an Indonesian passport.

This image provided by Star TV, shows a woman suspect, left, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
This image provided by Star TV, shows a woman suspect, left, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Another woman was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of involvement in the case. She reportedly had Vietnamese travel papers.

Police also detained a man who provided information that led to the arrest of one of the women.

South Korean officials have said two North Korean female agents poisoned Kim Jong Nam at the airport. They say the women sprayed liquid droplets at him and then held a cloth over his face.

That information is different from early reports of how Kim Jong Nam may have been poisoned.

Airport cameras captured images of the suspects. One woman wore a shirt with the letters "LOL" on the front.

There are reports that Malaysian officials have refused efforts by North Korean officials to stop a medical exam of the body.

North Korea involved in illicit activities

North Korean critics have described the government as a highly corrupt, family-led criminal operation. They say North Korea is active in smuggling, secretly transporting goods and other materials in and out of the country.

Critics also say the government is involved in drug trafficking and arms dealing, including the exchange of nuclear materials and missile parts. They say all the money earned goes to North Korea's wealthy leadership.

In 2012, United Nations diplomats reported on the discovery of North Korean-made graphite cylinders on a Chinese ship traveling to Syria. They said the tubes could be used to make missiles.

In 2005, an official from Ireland was arrested for having high-quality counterfeit copies of money from the United States. The counterfeit $100 bills reportedly were made in North Korea.

In 2016, a British citizen was sentenced to 15 years in prison for plotting to import 100 kilograms of North Korean methamphetamine drugs into the U.S.

Robert Kelly teaches at Pusan National University in South Korea. He says he would not be surprised if the North Korean leadership was to blame for the killing of Kim Jong Nam.

"You know, the North Koreans, they just don't follow the rules, both internally and externally. They treat their own people terribly and overseas they basically have engaged in this massive illicit economy and it's not surprising that that would also include illicit political behaviors like assassinations."

China's cooperation needed

Kim Jong Nam was once considered a possible replacement for Kim Jong Il as North Korea's head of state. But the son was caught trying to enter Japan with a false passport in 2001, reportedly to visit Tokyo Disneyland. After that, Kim Jong Nam spent most of his time in Macau.

In 2012, he wrote a note to a Japanese reporter. It said, "The Kim Jong-un regime will not last long. Without reforms."

The South Korean National Intelligence Service said recently that the North Korean leader had given a "standing order" for his half-brother's killing when he took power.

Robert Kelly says stopping unlawful activity by North Korea's leadership could put pressure on the government to change. But, he says, that would require cooperation from China, North Korea's main ally. He thinks China is unwilling to do anything that would weaken the Kim family's control and that would create instability within its neighbor.

As of Thursday, there was no news of Kim Jong Nam's death in North Korean media.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un marked the birthday of his father Kim Jong Il, which is a national holiday in the country.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Brian Padden and Youmi Kim reported this story for VOANews Mario Ritter adapted their report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

assassination – n. the killing of a person for political reasons

graphite – n. a light-weight carbon material

externally – adv. outside of something, not inside

illicit – adj. something not allowed or illegal

instability – n. the state of being easily changed or disordered