New details presented by the prosecution in the trial of the two women accused of assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother suggest that the pair were fully aware of what they were doing, according to The Washington Post.
The new evidence contradicts previous statements the women made claiming they believed the elaborate operation was just a prank for a TV show.
On February 13, Siti Aisyah of Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam both approached Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un’s older half-brother, as he was in line to check in for a flight to Macau at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia.
The pair rubbed an internationally banned nerve agent called VX onto his face one after the other, and then ran to separate bathrooms with hands outstretched in order to wash the agent off their hands. Both the attack and Kim’s eventual collapse from the toxin were captured on airport cameras, as was each assassin’s flight from the scene.
The camera footage, which was presented in court, also shows their previous rendezvous with four North Korean men identified only by the code names Mr. Chang, Mr. Y, James, and Hanamori, who allegedly recruited and trained the women for the attack, according to The Post. These four men left Malaysia for North Korea on the morning of the attack.
While Aisyah claimed she had been misled to think the stunt was a prank for a reality TV show, Indonesian police later confirmed that she had received money in exchange for the attack. The extensive training and preparation for the operation, coupled with the alleged assailants’ behavior before and afterward, are further indications that the two women knew they were dealing with poison, Malaysian prosecutors allege.
Kim collapsed and died on the way to a hospital later that day, and an autopsy showed that the VX had been present and had caused deadly damage to various vital organs.
The attack was immediately blamed on the North Korean government, and South Korean officials claimed the Kim regime had been planning the attack for the past five years. Kim Jong Nam had fallen out of favor as a successor to previous North Korean leader Kim Jong Il before he died in 2011, and with little interest in politics, he was exiled to make way for his younger brother.
Nevertheless, The Post reports that CIA analysts viewed him as a potential moderate replacement for Kim Jong Un, and the North Korean regime had tried several times to take him out of the picture, according to The New York Times.
In the assassination’s aftermath, an attempt was made to break into the morgue in which Kim’s body was being held. In response to the operation and the subsequent attempt, Malaysia has canceled visa-free entry for North Koreans.