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Kim half-brother Jong-Nam pleaded for his life: Seoul MPs

He died after reportedly being attacked by two women believed to be North Korean agents

AFP/ Press Trust of India  |  Seoul 

Kim Jong Un
In picture: Kim Jong Un

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 on Wednesday.

died after reportedly being attacked by two women believed to be North Korean agents at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday.

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.

First Published: Wed, February 15 2017. 10:48 IST
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