Kim Jong-Nam was the eldest son of Kim Jong II. All was set for him to become North Korea’s supreme leader, only to be transported back in a body bag from Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport. To date, nobody has ever satisfyingly answered to his sudden death. Here are some chilling details of the assassination and other fascinating Kim Jong-Nam facts.

1. Kim Jong-Nam’s Assassination Resembled a Movie Script

On February 17, 2017, the world was shocked to learn of Kim Jong-Nam’s death. The royal had been poisoned with a VX nerve agent– he is one of the few to have succumbed this way. His assassins recruited two women: one from Indonesia (Siti Aisyah) and another from Vietnam (Doan Thi Huong). They told the girls they would be employed to help shoot a massive prank show that would take the world by storm.

Fascinated by the new prospects of becoming TV stars and making money they could only dream of, the girls agreed. They made prank shows for weeks. The routine involved running to people, rubbing something on their faces, then telling them it was a prank. On the fateful day, the first woman rubbed a V agent before the other applied the X chemical on their target. When the two combined, they formed the deadly VX nerve agent that killed Kim Jong-Nam.

2. He Was Educated in Switzerland

To date, it’s not easy for North Koreans to move in and out of the country as they please. So, it was a big deal when Kim Jong-Nam, even though he was the president’s son, was allowed to leave and study abroad. He schooled in Switzerland, where he discovered the regime’s oppressive nature in his country. After seeing how people from other parts of the world lived, he wanted to bring reforms to North Korea. He failed.

3. Kim Jong-Nam Would Have Been North Korea’s President

Given the structure of North Korea’s administrative system, Kim Jong-Nam, the eldest son of the country’s former leader Kim Jong II, was on the path to inherit his father… until he wasn’t. From 1994 to 2001, he was considered a suitable heir; he was even groomed for the position. However, he fell out of favor when caught trying to sneak into Tokyo Disneyland using a forged Dominican Republic passport. The regime thought the incident was embarrassing, and Kim Jong-Nam’s advocacy for reforms didn’t help either.

4. He Wasn’t Interested with Leading North Korea

Even though Kim Jong-Nam was on the path to becoming North Korea’s leader, he didn’t fancy the position. According to his aunt, the departed royal was gifted in arts & film and wished to pursue that. She also described him as hot-tempered and sensitive, just like his father.

5. Kim Jong-Nam Once Worked at North Korea’s Computer Committee

Kim Jong-Nam was once employed at North Korea’s Ministry of Public Security, where he headed the country’s Computer Committee. He was tasked with developing and pushing North Korea’s Department of Information Technology forward. At one point, he accompanied his father, who was the then president, to Shanghai, China, where they discussed matters of IT. This was part of his grooming process.

6. Kim Jong-Nam Was the First Royal Member to Take a Question from a Foreign Journalist

Until Kim Jong-Un answered a question from a foreign journalist in 2019 at the North Korea-United States Hanoi Summit, no member of the Kim family, apart from Kim Jong-Nam, had taken questions. Mark you, this only happened because he sought exile from neighboring countries.

7. Kim Jong-Nam and Kim Jong-Un Didn’t Meet Until Their Father Died

Even though Kim Jong-Nam and Kim Jong-Un were step-brothers, the two had never met. This was primarily because it was customary for the Kim family to raise potential successors separately. The only known time that the two met was when their father died, and they were paying their last respects. Many speculate that this massively contributed to the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam.

8. Kim Jong-Nam Didn’t Attend His Father’s Funeral

After paying his last respects, Kim Jong-Nam didn’t attend his father’s funeral; he left a few days before his sending off. It is reported that he didn’t want speculations arising over the possibility of taking over his father’s throne.

9. He Always Traveled Alone

After relocating to Macau, China, Kim Jong-Nam often traveled alone under various aliases. This was confirmed in January 2012 when he revealed his identity to a group of South Koreans, among them a professor from Incheon University. They were waiting for an Air China flight when he told them about his solo travels. This contributed to how he was assassinated.

10. Kim Jong-Nam Talked Ill about Kim Jong-Un’s Reign

To begin with, talking to foreign press about the country’s affairs is unheard of in North Korea. Kim Jong-Nam not only did this but also proceeded to taint the name of the incumbent president. In an interview, Kim Jong-Nam stated that he expected Kim Jong-Un to fail. He foresaw the country’s collapse, saying the leader was too young and inexperienced. Reports say this set in motion plans for his eventual assassination.

11. He Survived Several Assassination Attempts

In 2012, Kim Jong-Nam survived an assassination attempt. Subsequent botched attacks prompted him to leave Macau for Singapore. At one point, a North Korean agent, Kim Yong-su, confessed to South Korean authorities that plans were in motion for Kim Jong-Nam’s assassination.

12. Kim Jong-Nam Was A CIA Source

Following several failed attempts, Kim Jong-Nam’s assassins resorted to lay back and study their target’s movements. It was here that they discovered Kim Jong-Nam interacting with probable CIA agents. This reportedly sealed his fate; “he had to go.”

13. The Suspects Accused of Killing Kim Jong-Nam Were Released

The two women who were arrested for killing Kim Jong-Nam were released in 2019 after trials. It was ascertained that they genuinely believed they were doing prank shows. However, they were charged with “voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons” but were later released. Some of the real North Korean agents that plotted the death, including the chemist who made the concoction, were caught but released following “orders from above.”

14. Vietnam Demanded Apologies From North Korea for Kim Jong-Nam’s Murder

Following the involvement of a Vietnamese woman in the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, Vietnam demanded an apology from North Korea. Surprisingly, they got their wish as it was reported that North Korean officials had formally apologized on December 12, 2018.

15. North Korea Objected to Kim Jong-Nam’s Autopsy Request

Notably, North Korean diplomats objected to Kim Jong-Nam’s autopsy, which was conducted anyway by the Kuala Lumpur Hospital mortuary. The results showed that the deceased lungs, liver, spleen, and brain had been affected by the VX nerve agent.

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Last Update: January 2, 2024