Kim Jong-nam Killing Organized by North Korean Ministries, South Finds

A hazardous materials team conducting checks on Sunday inside Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where Kim Jong-nam was killed on Feb. 13 with a toxic nerve agent. Credit Fazry Ismail/European Pressphoto Agency

SEOUL, South Korea — Officials from North Korea’s secret police and Foreign Ministry were involved in the killing of the estranged half brother of the country’s leader, South Korean intelligence officials told lawmakers on Monday.

Ever since Kim Jong-nam, the eldest brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jung-un, was first reported assassinated, the South Korean government has held the North responsible. On Monday, the National Intelligence Service in Seoul provided more details of what it described as state-sponsored terrorism, saying that four of the eight North Koreans identified as suspects by the Malaysian authorities were agents from North Korea’s Ministry of State Security, the country’s secret police.

Speaking on Monday in a closed-door parliamentary hearing, Lee Byung-ho, the director of the National Intelligence Service, said that two other suspects worked for the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The remaining two were affiliated with Air Koryo, the North’s state-run airline company, and Singwang Economics and Trading General Corporation, Mr. Lee said, according to two lawmakers who attended the briefing. Singwang is among North Korean companies facing United Nations sanctions.

The Malaysian authorities have said that Mr. Kim was killed by an extremely toxic nerve agent known as VX. They said that the North Koreans had hired and trained two women, one from Indonesia, the other from Vietnam, to attack Mr. Kim at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The women smeared his face with the chemical while he was waiting to check in for a flight to Macau, where he and his family had a home, they said.

The two women are now in police custody in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr. Lee, the South Korean intelligence chief, was quoted by the lawmakers as saying that the eight North Koreans, working as two four-member teams, converged in Kuala Lumpur to carry out the Feb. 13 assassination.

The four North Koreans who made up the assassination team left Malaysia the same day Mr. Kim was killed and are believed to be back in their country, Mr. Lee was quoted as saying. The Malaysian police have confirmed their departure.

Hyon Kwang-song, a senior diplomat at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and three other North Koreans worked as a support team, Mr. Lee told the lawmakers, keeping track of Kim Jong-nam’s whereabouts and providing logistical assistance. Mr. Hyon worked for the Ministry of State Security, he said.

Mr. Hyon and the Air Koryo employee, Kim Uk-il, remain at the embassy in Malaysia.

A third member of the support team, identified as Ri Jong-chol, has been arrested in Kuala Lumpur. The fourth, identified as Ri Ji-u, is believed to be at large in Malaysia.

During the intelligence briefing on Monday, Mr. Lee told the lawmakers that five senior officials affiliated with the State Security Ministry had been executed with antiaircraft guns. He also said that Gen. Kim Won-hong, who was removed as chief of the secret police in January, was in detention as part of a purge.

Mr. Lee said that General Kim and his five deputies had angered Kim Jong-un by filing false reports, but he did not elaborate. The South’s intelligence agency had said earlier that General Kim was dismissed on charges of corruption and abuse of power.

Source: NYTimes