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You Should Read This Before The North Korea Fratricide Story Gets Any Crazier


Originally posted on
Updated on

Okay, you guys. Have you been paying attention to this Game of Thrones meets James Bond meets The Interview shit that has been going on with North Korea?

Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP / Getty Images

If not buckle up, and read fast, because this story keeps getting weirder and weirder and it wouldn't be shocking if more weird things have happened by the time you're finished with this.

Let's start at the beginning: This is Kim Jong Nam, the one-time heir apparent to the leadership of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, better known as North Korea.

Shizuo Kambayashi / AP

Things are pretty sweet when you're all set to become the third in a dynastic line that offers complete authoritarian control of a government. But he reportedly didn't much like the idea of a third-generation of Kims ruling. “In this world, if you are a person with normal thoughts, you can’t follow hereditary [succession] for three generations,” he said, according a 2012 book based on emails and conversations between Kim and a Japanese journalist. “It’s very doubtful that a young hereditary successor who only was taught for two years could possibly take over … absolute authority.”

But Kim Jong Nam then managed to get caught using a fake passport while traveling with with his family back in 2001. The reason he gave for being in a Tokyo airport pretending to be a Dominican national? He wanted to visit Tokyo Disney. True story.

Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Un's dad, longtime leader Kim Jong Il, was like, "Omfg what the shit, are you kidding me with this right now." And so Nam plummeted from favor faster than a North Korean missile hits the sea.


Which meant that Kim Jong Nam's younger half brother, Kim Jong Un, was the new favorite.

/ ASSOCIATED PRESS, Kcna Kcna / Reuters

(There's a middle Kim — Kim Jong Chol, who has a different mother than either of his half brothers — whom Kim Jong Il reportedly didn't like very much for being "too feminine" to lead the country.)

But there was apparently in Kim Jong Un's mind a worry. A fear. A concern that his brother might pull a Scar on him.

Walt Disney Company

According to a South Korean lawmaker, citing South Korea's spy chief, Kim Jong Un put out a hit on his half brother way back in 2011.

All of this brings us to Feb. 14, 2017, when South Korean media first reported that Kim Jong Nam had been killed in a Malaysian airport while waiting for a flight to Macau, where he'd been living in semi-exile.

Jung Yeon-je / AFP / Getty Images

At first, it seemed like a story that was too out there to be true. Like remember the time that it was reported that Kim Jong Un had an uncle of his torn apart by dogs? That story turned out to be totally fake, so why wouldn't reports that mysterious women had attacked his half brother with "poison needles" as the first stories published claimed turn out the same?


WELL SURPRISE. IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Not with poison needles but there were totally women who attacked him — but at least one of those arrested claims to have not realized it at the time.


Indonesian national Siti Aishah told Indonesian police that she believed that she was on a game show at the Kuala Lampur airport, going around the site and spraying men in the face for a laugh. She was "not aware it was an assassination attempt by alleged foreign agents," Indonesian Police Chief Tito Karnavian told journalists earlier this week.

When the pictures of Aishah in her "LOL" shirt were first released, people were shook that 2017 could be so cold-blooded.

Then came the video, first aired on Japan's Fuji TV, that purported to show the exact moment that the attack took place.

A total of three people have now been arrested in relation to the killing: the LOL woman, another woman with Vietnamese traveling papers, and a man believed to be her boyfriend.


Malaysia's health minister said on Sunday that the dose of VX was so high that Nam was dead within 20 minutes, too fast for even any antidote to help.


"The doses were so high and it did it so fast and all over the body, so it would have affected his heart, it would have affected his lungs, it would have affected everything," Subramaniam Sathasivam said at a news conference.

This whole thing has caused quite a stir in Malaysia, whose citizens are kinda upset that their home was used as an assassination staging ground.

Rahman Roslan / Getty Images

Malaysian police have been leading the investigation and are undeterred by North Korea's attempts to stonewall them. At least one senior North Korean Embassy official is wanted for questioning related to the death, but the North Koreans aren't playing nice.

And Kuala Lampur may be ready to break its ties with Pyongyang after years of being one of the few countries to maintain diplomatic links with North Korea.

North Korea, on the other hand, insists its hands are clean and that it's really all Malaysia's fault anyway since Kim Jong Nam died there. Not that it's even Kim who died — Pyongyang refuses to say even that much.

Rahman Roslan / Getty Images

In addition to saying that the "innocent women" arrested should be released, and that Malaysia had made the whole thing up to curry favor with South Korea, it ~casually~ dropped the reminder that Pyongyang has nuclear weapons in a statement it released on the matter.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

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