The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who has been murdered in Malaysia, pleaded for his life to be spared after a failed assassination bid in 2012, lawmakers briefed by Seoul’s spy chief said om Wednesday. Kim Jong-Nam died after reportedly being attacked by two women believed to be North Korean agents at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday.
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Jong-Nam, the eldest son of the late former leader Kim Jong-Il, was once seen as heir apparent but fell out of favour following an embarrassing botched bid in 2001 to enter Japan on a forged passport and visit Disneyland.
He has since lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau, while Jong-Un took over the isolated, nuclear-armed state after the death of his father in December 2011.
The North in 2012 tried to assassinate Jong-Nam — known to be a supporter of reform in Pyongyang — Seoul lawmakers said following a closed-door briefing by the chief of the National Intelligence Service, Lee Byung-Ho.
“According to (Lee)… there was one (assassination) bid in 2012, and Jong-Nam in April 2012 sent a letter to Jong-Un saying ‘Please spare me and my family,'” Kim Byung-Kee, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters.
“It also said ‘We have nowhere to go… we know that the only way to escape is suicide’,” he said, adding Jong-Nam had little political support at home and posed little threat to Jong-Un.
Jong-Nam’s family — his former and current wives and three children — are currently living in Beijing and Macau, said another committee member, Lee Cheol-Woo.
“They are under the protection by the Chinese authorities,” he said, adding Jong-Nam had entered Malaysia on February 6, a week before his death.
Jong-Nam’s murder is the highest-profile death under the Kim Jong-Un’s regime since the execution of the leader’s uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, in December 2013.
Jang, known to be close to China and an advocate of economic reform in the North, was charged with treason.
Jong-Nam, believed to have ties with Beijing’s elite, was a relatively outspoken figure, publicly criticising Pyongyang’s political system.
The 45-year-old said he “personally opposed” the hereditary power transfer in his own family, during an interview with Japan’s Asahi TV in 2010.
One of his sons — Han-Sol — also described his uncle, Jong-Un, as a “dictator” in a rare interview with a Finnish TV station in 2012 while he was studying in Europe.