Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
|Posted: Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:37 am Post subject: 13Feb17 - Kim Jong Nam assassinated using VX in Kuala Lumpur
|Judge Cites A 'Well-Planned Conspiracy' In Kim Jong Nam's Death
The two assassin women were Mafia sex workers
August 16, 20188:29 AM ET JAMES DOUBEK
Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (center), escorted by armed Malaysian police, leaves after facing trial at the Shah Alam High Court outside Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
Two women accused of killing Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea's dictator, will remain in custody after a judge in Malaysia on Thursday said there is enough evidence of a "well-planned conspiracy" to move the case forward.
The two women, 25-year-old Siti Aisyah, an Indonesian national, and 29-year-old Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese national, allegedly smeared the banned nerve agent VX on Kim's face in the airport of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February 2017. Kim died in 20 minutes.
Although there has never been any definitive proof, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is widely believed to have ordered his brother's execution.
The women say they were tricked into participating in the attack and thought it was part of a reality TV show prank.
Four North Korean men have also been charged as part of the death, but they left Malaysia the morning of the attack and remain at large.
Trial judge Azmi Ariffin called the murder of Kim a "well-planned conspiracy between the women and the four North Koreans at large," according to Reuters, which reports that the judge called upon the two women to prepare a defense for a trial to be held sometime between November and February.
North Korea Claims Kim Jong Nam Likely Died Of A Heart Attack, Not Poisoning
North Korea Claims Kim Jong Nam Likely Died Of A Heart Attack, Not Poisoning
Malaysia Agrees To Release Kim Jong Nam's Body Amid Diplomatic Crisis
Malaysia Agrees To Release Kim Jong Nam's Body Amid Diplomatic Crisis
Kim Jong Nam Had Antidote In Bag When He Died In Nerve Agent Attack
Kim Jong Nam Had Antidote In Bag When He Died In Nerve Agent Attack
They could face the death penalty if convicted.
The judge added that although there was not enough evidence to say whether it was a political assassination, he could not rule it out.
The judge said security camera footage "showed that they had the knowledge that the liquid on their hands was toxic," according to the BBC. The judge said there was no hidden crew and no attempt to bring the person in on the joke afterward, as is common in reality TV prank shows.
Kim had been living in exile with his family in the Chinese territory of Macau. He "had spoken out in the past against his family's dynastic control of North Korea and in a 2012 book was quoted as saying he believed his half-brother lacked leadership qualities," the BBC reported. There had been a "standing order" for the elder Kim's death since Kim Jong Un took power in 2011, according to The New York Times.
VX is banned by the international Chemical Weapons Convention, though some believe North Korea maintains a stockpile of the nerve agent.
|TonyGosling wrote: |
|Kim Jong Nam murder: 5 seconds was all it took to poison him
A news programme showing how the alleged assassination of Kim Jong Nam took place is shown on a TV screen in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do, South Korea, on Feb 15, 2017.
KUALA LUMPUR - It took no more than five seconds for two assailants said to be North Korean agents to administer what is believed to be poison on Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Monday (Feb 13), Malaysian daily New Straits Times reported.
Kim, 45, was standing in a small crowd in front of the airport's self-service check-in counter when his purported female assailants struck, the report said.
One of them stood in front of him to distract him while the other locked him from behind in a chokehold, and administered the poison that killed him soon after, the report said.
It suggested that the operation was captured on the multitude of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras positioned strategically throughout the departure hall.
Subsequent movements of the female assassins after the job was carried out were also filmed by the cameras, it said.
|TonyGosling wrote: |
|Vietnamese suspect in Kim Jong Nam killing had wad of cash, moved hotels, cut her hair
PUBLISHEDFEB 17, 2017, 8:49 PM SGT
KUALA LUMPUR/JAKARTA (Reuters) - The woman with the acronym 'LOL' on her shirt who was arrested this week in connection with the murder of North Korea's Kim Jong Nam stayed in cheap hotels, carried a wad of cash and cut her hair a day before the brazen attack at Kuala Lumpur airport.
According to the receptionist at one of the hotels, a woman who had checked in under the Vietnamese name of Doan Thi Huong on Sunday (Feb 12) left early in the morning on Monday, the day of the assassination, and returned later, showing no signs of stress.
Police believe she was the person who, at around 8.20am that day, had approached the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from behind at the Malaysian capital's budget airline terminal and thrust a deadly poisonous substance into his face.
According to Malaysian media reports, Doan told police she had been duped into what she thought was a harmless practical joke. A second woman who has been detained, an Indonesian national, also thought she was involved in a prank, some media reports said.
However, staff at two hotels in a rundown area near the airport gave details of Doan's movements before the killing that appeared both calm and deliberate.
A private investigator told Reuters her behaviour bore the hallmarks of an intelligence operative.
Poison used to kill Kim Jong Nam believed to be ricin or tetrodotoxin
The assassinated half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used to enjoy coming to Malaysia but always had bodyguards with him as he feared for his life, says a restaurant owner who knew him.
Kim Jong Nam, slain half-brother of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, 'always had bodyguards in Malaysia'
An undated photo of Mr Kim Jong Un inspecting a construction site, released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency last month. Experts say he may have viewed his brother as a thorn and felt the need to eliminate him.
Kim Jong Nam's death: Murder only shows up Kim Jong Un's insecurity
A picture taken in August 1981 at an unknown location showing Kim Jong Nam (front row, right), the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, together with his father Kim Jong Il.
9 things to know about once heir apparent Kim Jong Nam who lost favour with father
Cops confirm Kim Jong-nam killed at KLIA2
Cops confirm Kim Jong-nam killed at KLIA2
South Korea confirms poison murder of Kim Jong Nam, says he was target of North Korean agents for five years
A man believed to be North Korean heir-apparent Kim Jong Nam emerging from a bus as he is escorted by Japanese authorities upon his deportation from Japan at Tokyo's Narita international airport, on May 4, 2001.
Kim Jong Nam sightings around the world, including Singapore
Mr Kim Jong Nam and his family reportedly lived in virtual exile in Macau, Singapore and China.
Kim Jong Nam: The 'Little General' who fell from grace
A STACK OF MONEY, HAIR-CUT
Doan went first to the two-star Qlassic Hotel, checking in on Saturday, Feb 11. A staff member who asked not to be named said she stayed in the cheapest room, which had no windows.
"I remember she had wanted to extend her stay here, and was ready to pay with a stack of money in her hand," said another member of the Qlassic's staff, a front-desk employee who only identified herself as Sia.
After one night, Doan checked into the CityView Hotel, arriving with a suitcase, a backpack and a large teddy bear, the receptionist told Reuters, declining to be named. She said Doan spoke understandable English.
She borrowed a pair of scissors from the front desk the evening before the attack, and a member of housekeeping staff found hair on the floor and in the waste basket the next day. "She found the scissors on the room desk. And there was hair strewn on the floor in the room, (Doan) had thrown some in the bin but there was still a mess," the receptionist said.
She said that the next day Doan had on the shirt she was seen wearing in an airport CCTV grab that has earned her the nickname "LOL Girl" in Malaysian media.
Doan was out for much of the morning and, on her return, she seemed "relaxed" and "didn't look angry or worried".
Doan complained about the Wifi in her room and when she was told it couldn't be fixed until the afternoon, she checked out and left.
She then checked into the SkyStar Hotel, also nearby, and left after one night, an employee said.
It is not known where Doan went next. Police said she was arrested on Wednesday morning, about 48 hours after the murder, in the same terminal where Kim Jong Nam was attacked.
"If you ask me, do her movements indicate that she was an intelligence operative, then I would say yes," said a private investigator in Kuala Lumpur who asked not to be named.
"That is how they operate. Change of appearance, cash transactions, no paper trail and constantly on the move."
SECOND WOMAN FROM A JAKARTA SLUM
The Indonesian woman who was arrested on Thursday, Siti Aisyah, had lived a quiet life in a slum district of Jakarta before going to find work in Malaysia, residents in the western neighbourhood of the Indonesian capital said.
According to Malaysian media reports, she stood in front of Kim to distract him while her accomplice approached from behind.
In Jakarta, Aisyah had worked for a time in the tailoring business in the house of her ex-husband's family, sewing clothes by hand, former neighbours in the Tambora district said.
"I can't believe the news. Her background was very simple,"said community leader R. Yusri.
The couple moved to Malaysia several years ago but separated in 2012. Aisyah's former father-in-law said she had returned to Jakarta on Jan 28 to visit her seven-year-old son. She had looked thinner than usual and had a cough.
The streets in Tambora district are too narrow for cars to pass through. A tangle of washing lines hangs above small concrete and makeshift homes, many housing small businesses or selling clothes and food.
Ida Anisafitri, a neighbour, said Aisyah kept a low profile when she visited there.
"We would see her briefly with the child and then she would go back inside the house," Anisafitri said, as a loudspeaker from a nearby mosque sounded with the call to prayer.
|TonyGosling wrote: |
|Timeline: The 'assassination' of Kim Jong Nam
What happened to the half-brother of Kim Jong Un at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2? Who has been arrested for the suspected murder?
By Amy Chew Posted 18 Feb 2017 08:32 Updated 18 Feb 2017 08:40
KUALA LUMPUR: On the morning of Feb 13, Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was at Malaysia’s low-cost Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) and headed for his flight to Macau where he lives in exile.
He never made it home.
Here is a recap of the alleged assassination and the ensuing fallout.
FEB 13, 2017
As the portly 46-year-old was walking through the departure hall just after 8am, two women who had been tailing him struck, according to Malaysian police.
One of the women allegedly distracted Kim while another grabbed his face from behind and clamped a cloth believed to be soaked in a chemical to it.
Kim sought help at the airport’s help desk, telling a receptionist there he felt dizzy. According to China Press, his last words were: “Very painful, very painful, I was sprayed with liquid.”
He was taken to a clinic one floor down from the arrival hall. At that point, he experienced mild seizure and was on the verge of passing out, reports said. An ambulance was called and he was sent to the Putrajaya Hospital close by.
“He died on the way to hospital,” a senior police source told ChannelNewsAsia.
A day later, South Korean media broke news of the death citing intelligence sources. Early reports allege that he was attacked with poison needles or splashed with an unknown liquid. Malaysian officials would only confirm that a Korean man, carrying travel documents under the name Kim Chol, died on the way to hospital.
On Wednesday, Seoul's unification ministry said the South Korean government is confident the "murdered man" was Kim Jong Nam, saying North Korea had been planning to kill him for the past five years.
Malaysian police announced the arrest of a woman holding a Vietnamese passport who matched CCTV footage of the alleged attackers. The suspect is identified as 28-year-old Doan Thi Huong.
CCTV images of the suspected attackers were published by the media and one of the women reportedly involved is seen sporting a white blouse with "LOL" written in front.
An autopsy on the body at Kuala Lumpur Hospital was also completed on Wednesday evening to the objection of North Korea, which wanted the body released immediately for cremation.
Malaysia's deputy prime minister confirmed three days after the North Korean man who died was Kim Jong Nam. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the press that Kim Jong Un's half-brother had travelled with a passport with the name “Kim Chol”.
Earlier that day 2am, an Indonesian by the name of Siti Aisyah, 25, was arrested. Her boyfriend, Malaysian Muhammad Farid Jalaluddin, 26, was picked up by police as well to assist in investigations.
On Friday, Malaysian authorities said they would not release the body of Kim Jong Nam until his family has provided a DNA sample.
At about 11.40pm, the North Korean envoy to Malaysia was spotted at Hospital Kuala Lumpur trying to gain access to the National Institute of Forensic Medicine at where Kim Jong Nam’s body is being held. He read out a statement accusing Malaysia of "forcing" a post-mortem on the body and alleged that it was "colluding with hostile forces" by rejecting demands to release the body.
In response, Malaysia’s police chief said: "Whilst in Malaysia, everyone has to obey our rules and regulations ...that includes North Korea."
Channel NewsAsia spoke to people in the hometown of the Indonesian suspect in Kim Jong Nam's death and is told the woman is "very timid" and very much an "introvert".
THE LIFE OF KIM JONG NAM
Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son of North Korea’s late leader Kim Jong-il. Unlike most of his isolated countrymen, he had a cosmopolitan upbringing and was educated at the International School of Geneva and Lycée Français Alexandre Dumas in Moscow.
He was considered to be in training as North Korea’s next supreme leader during the 1990s, but fell out of favour with his father after he was caught trying to enter Japan in 2001 on a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
His birth was considered shameful because his father and mother, actress Sung Hye Rim, were unmarried.
He went into exile and was known to be living in Macau from around 2003, but also had relatives, including at least three children with three different women – two wives and one mistress – living in Beijing, according to South Korea’s intelligence service. His travels and good life were documented on a Facebook page under the name "Kim Chol", which some say may have been his undoing.
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
Trustworthy Freedom Fighter
Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Location: Westminster, LONDON, SW1A 2HB.
|Posted: Thu Nov 15, 2018 8:10 pm Post subject:
|The Untold Story of Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination
DOUG BOCK CLARK
September 25, 2017 8:00 AM
Illustration by Jeffrey Smith
Two women had the most audacious task. Killing the brother of the North Korean leader. Right out in the open, using deadly chemical weapons in an international airport. And the craziest thing? They had no idea what they'd gotten into.
When Kim Jong-nam was a boy, his father, the dictator of North Korea, sat him on his office chair and said, “When you grow up, this is where you'll sit and give orders.” If the child had fulfilled that promise—if his half brother, Kim Jong-un, had not ultimately usurped his throne—he would have tyrannized 25 million people. His pudgy finger would have caressed the launch buttons of nukes. America and China would have debated how to manage him.
But as Jong-nam glanced up at the departures board in the international airport of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the jostling crowd ignored him. He had become just another overweight 45-year-old, the bald spot that he usually hid with a cap showing through his remaining hair like a bull's-eye.
Kim Jong-nam, once the presumptive leader of North Korea.The Asahi Shimbun
Still, the two beautiful young women destined to kill him picked out their mark.
As Jong-nam sauntered toward the closest AirAsia self-check-in kiosk at 8:59 A.M. on February 13, an Indonesian woman in stylishly torn jeans and a gray sleeveless top slipped out from behind a pillar. She covered his eyes as if playing peekaboo and then wiped her hands over his mouth, leaving an oily smear.
“Who are you?” Jong-nam demanded.
“Sorry! Sorry!” she answered before disappearing into the crowd.
A second later, a Vietnamese woman wearing a white jumper emblazoned with LOL threw her arms over his shoulders and rubbed her hands across his face. She apologized, too, before hurrying in the opposite direction of the Indonesian woman.
Already, the liquid that the women had applied was seeping into Jong-nam, rapidly jamming his muscles' receptors in the “on” position, causing his muscles to constantly contract as if struck by endless cramps. The liquid was VX, a chemical weapon that the CDC calls the “most potent of all nerve agents” and that the United Nations classifies as a weapon of mass destruction. He absorbed a lethal dose, which could have been as small as a drop.
Jong-nam started toward the bathroom—and then lost his only chance to wash off the poison and survive when he rerouted to a nearby information desk. There, he moaned in English, “Very painful, very painful, I was sprayed liquid.” By the time an attendant led him to three policemen, who were chatting rather than monitoring the crowds, he could only groan incoherently as he jabbed at his face with both hands.
A bored-looking officer guided him to the airport medical clinic, but after about three minutes of walking, Jong-nam's knees had stiffened and his feet dragged. The nerve agent was relentlessly stimulating his muscles, and his respiratory system and heart already neared exhaustion.
In the fluorescently lit clinic, he collapsed into a black pleather chair. His indigo T-shirt rode up his belly, and a golden pendant, digitally engraved with a portrait of his wife and son, surfed his heaving chest as he labored to breathe. A seizure rattled him. As his lungs contracted, never relaxing to allow air out, nurses fixed him to an oxygen tank. When he was stretchered to an ambulance, paramedics discerned a faltering heartbeat. But en route to the hospital, it flatlined. He had lasted little more than 15 minutes after the poisoning.
Earlier in his life, Jong-nam often had bodyguards watching his back, but his fall from privilege had been abrupt. He had grown up the firstborn son, with a direct path to ruling North Korea, in a mansion staffed by 100 servants and 500 guards. But after his father, Kim Jong-il, acquired a new mistress who bore two more sons, Jong-nam was dispatched to a posh private school in Geneva. Still, his ascension seemed likely. On his 24th birthday, he was given a general's uniform and soon assigned posts in the secret police and the ruling political party. The state began cultivating the grandeur necessary for him to succeed his father, attributing unbelievable accomplishments to him.
But despite the incredible power he wielded in North Korea, childhood friends described him as depressed, missing the freedoms he had become accustomed to in the West. He took luxurious vacations abroad whenever he could.
Jong-il may have suspected that his son lacked the killer instinct necessary to run a dictatorship: He was eventually associated with lenient policies toward defectors and was assigned to manage the country's information-technology systems instead of managing hit squads. In 2001, Jong-nam was arrested trying to sneak into Japan on a fake Dominican passport with the Mandarin alias “fat bear.” During a three-day detention, he confessed he'd wanted only to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
The resulting news stories of an immature heir seemed to humiliate Jong-il, and reports of Jong-nam's diamond-encrusted Rolex and his female companions' Louis Vuitton bags highlighted the regime's extravagance while its people suffered famines. Jong-il immediately canceled a diplomatic trip with his son to China. For at least a year, Jong-nam did not return to North Korea, and as he waited to be re-admitted to Pyongyang, his globe-trotting eventually devolved into a debauched permanent exile in Macau, the Las Vegas of China. Who would succeed Jong-il remained hazy even after he suffered a stroke in 2008. But those questions began to resolve themselves in 2010, when Jong-un, the youngest son, was named to high military and political posts, passing over a middle son long regarded by his father as effeminate. In 2011, Jong-il's death was announced and Kim Jong-un consolidated the power that birth and propaganda had put within his reach. While Jong-un stood beside his father's casket, Jong-nam was conspicuously absent.
Shortly thereafter, Jong-nam critiqued his younger brother's ascension in an e-mail to a Japanese journalist, calling him a “joke to the outside world” and echoing the doubts that many in the international community harbored about the new 27-year-old despot. He predicted, “The Kim Jong-un regime will not last long.”
But Jong-un unhesitatingly displayed the ruthlessness of a natural-born tyrant: He had his mentor and main rival—his uncle—killed, reportedly used anti-aircraft guns to execute disloyal officials, and aggressively developed nuclear missiles capable of striking America.
Jong-nam should have known what was coming. First, his funds from the regime were cut off. Then he had to start dodging attacks. In 2010, a North Korean agent in China was ordered to give a sack of cash to a taxi driver to stage an accident, but Jong-nam never arrived at the scene. He ducked another attempt in 2012, the same year he sent a letter to Jong-un, begging, “Please withdraw the order to punish me and my family. We have nowhere to hide. The only way to escape is to choose suicide.”
After Jong-nam's death at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, it initially appeared that “Kim Chol”—as he was identified on his diplomatic passport, the Korean equivalent of “John Smith”—had died of a heart attack. Malaysian authorities didn't have a clue about the nerve agent, nor did they know they were dealing with a person of geopolitical importance. The only thing that could have given authorities pause was the $120,000 found in his backpack, divided into four bricks of $100 bills. Experts would later suggest that he had received the money during a two-hour meeting with a CIA agent, likely in exchange for information about the regime.
But the next day, South Korean news agencies announced that Jong-nam had been murdered. Reuters reported that Malaysian officials had confused the Koreas and notified the wrong embassy—a mistake the Malaysian government subsequently denied, but which explained why the earliest reports about Jong-nam's identity broke in Seoul. When airport CCTV footage of the attack leaked to a Japanese news outlet, the story went viral worldwide, dominating TV and the Internet. By the following morning, observers were noting that the two women, whom police had quickly captured, had not acted alone—at least four men subsequently described by South Korea's intelligence agency as spies had orchestrated the attack. Two days later, the number of North Korean suspects the police had identified had risen to seven. Already, a North Korean with a doctorate in chemistry had been arrested.
The answers were hidden in plain sight by the North Korean spymasters, and their revelation was designed to make the global order tremble.
A little before midnight four days after the attack, the North Korean ambassador confronted a siege of reporters from around the globe outside the morgue housing Jong-nam's body. He protested that “Kim Chol” was a North Korean citizen, and he accused Malaysia of trying to “besmirch the image of our Republic,” possibly in collaboration with South Korea. He also demanded the corpse. After Malaysian authorities refused to turn over the body to North Korean officials, police reported a break-in attempt at the morgue. Pyongyang scoffed, too, at accusations that it had unleashed VX, saying that “Chol” had died of cardiac arrest. Other doubters pointed out that if the nerve agent had been used, the two women would have been poisoned as well.
The diplomatic standoff unraveled into an international crisis. The Malaysian government expelled the North Korean ambassador. In response, Pyongyang barred all Malaysians from leaving the country, essentially holding them hostage. Nuclear-disarmament talks between the United States and North Korea broke down. China publicly rebuked its neighbor by turning away coal imports, a linchpin of the North Korean economy. It seemed that the assassination and the simultaneously escalating confrontation over Jong-un's nukes could explode the decades-stalled Korean War into a global conflict.
A month and a half later, Malaysia blinked in order to free its citizens, turning over the corpse and allowing three wanted North Koreans hiding in the embassy to fly home. This left only the two imprisoned women to face justice—hanging under Malaysian law, if convicted of murder.
But as the international crisis churned, the identities and motivations of the two women remained mysterious. One was said to be a prostitute from Indonesia and the other an escort from Vietnam. But how had two young women from rural Southeast Asian villages become ensnared in an international assassination plot? And why had they been manipulated into killing Jong-nam in such a gruesome way?
The answers had likely been hidden in plain sight by the North Korean spymasters, and their revelation was designed to make the global order tremble.
The female assassins had been identified on the CCTV footage with almost comic ease—the Vietnamese woman's white jumper, adorned with LOL, proved easy to track through the grainy footage. Catching her was simple, too: Doan Thi Huong, 29, was arrested the day after the killing, when she returned to the airport. She had been born in a rural Vietnamese village, had her dreams of celebrity dashed when she lasted 20 seconds on Vietnam Idol, and ended up working as an escort in Hanoi, where she'd been recruited by an undercover North Korean agent.
At 2 A.M. the morning after the murder, Malaysian police marched through the dank hallways of the Flamingo Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, in which stained springless mattresses leaned against walls to air out during the day. In a third-floor room, the second alleged assassin, a 25-year-old from Indonesia named Siti Aisyah, had just finished servicing a Malaysian man and sent him on his way when the officers burst through the unlocked door.
From the CCTV footage, Doan's and Siti's guilt seemed clear until, under interrogation, they both separately explained that they thought they'd merely slathered Jong-nam with a harmless liquid for a hidden-camera TV show. The Malaysian chief of police scoffed at that idea at a news conference, declaring, “The two female suspects knew the substance was toxic.” He pointed out that immediately after tagging Jong-nam, they had run to the bathroom to scrub the poison off their palms. But they were adamant: They had certainly not meant to hurt anyone, let alone kill them.
Siti Aisyah, left, and Doan Thi Huong, the women recruited for the murder plot.Royal Malaysia Police
While both women's lives followed a remarkably similar lopsided arc of disappointment from remote hamlets to seedy nightclubs to prison cells where they now face death, it was Siti's footprints that I tracked across Asia because, having lived for three years in Indonesia, I had met dozens of vulnerable migrant women who could have suffered her fate. I felt like there was bound to be more to the story than the Malaysian police had reported. And sure enough, the truth I ultimately discovered was far more complicated than I ever could have imagined.
Siti was recruited by the North Koreans at 3 A.M. on January 5, 2017, outside a notorious bar in Kuala Lumpur. On paper, she worked as a masseuse in the Flamingo Hotel's spa, but when I visited in July, a worker immediately asked, “You want to sleep with a Thai or Indonesian girl?” Later, one of Siti's friends laughed when I said I'd heard she'd given massages there, declaring, “She was totally sex!”
Some evenings, Siti would finish at the spa, get dolled up, and then take a taxi downtown to the Beach Club. In front of the kitschy surf café serving rubbery pizzas to European families, she joined dozens of skimpily dressed Indonesian and Vietnamese women smoking and checking the time on their phones. But at 10:30 P.M. sharp every night, as the last mothers shepherded their children to bed, the club music began to blare, the fog machine was deployed, and the working girls catwalked in. While two-foot-long sharks circled in the aquarium above the bar, manicured fingernails alighted on the shoulders of potbellied men from America and Japan.
It was a famous enough hunting ground that three staff members recalled Jong-nam, who was known to frequent prostitutes around the world, occasionally visiting. Five employees also recalled Siti prospecting there.
On the fateful night, Siti pushed past the Beach Club's bouncers, out onto the street, alone: It hadn't been a successful evening. But from the queue of taxis, one 40-year-old cabbie, named “John,” whom she already knew, called her over: A man had asked him to find girls he could film smearing lotion on the faces of strangers.
The request was only slightly strange: Drivers acted as go-betweens for tourists and prostitutes all the time. “B,” a close friend of John's and Siti's, who also worked the Beach Club, explained that they thought John's client wanted to make a porno film.
The proposed payment—more than $100—overcame any hesitations Siti might have had. At the spa, her share of each trick amounted to $15, with the rest taken by her bosses. She had started freelancing because she could earn triple that by herself, and she had to help support her impoverished parents and son in Indonesia. As B said, “She was always talking about working for them.” Her dream was to build a house in her native village and live there with her family.
Each year thousands of Indonesian women like Siti set off for new lives in cities like Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur.
But Siti had never proved to be skillful in business. As B recalled, “She always sold herself too cheap. She was a beautiful lady and could have asked for more. But unlike a lot of other girls, she would never choose her man. She'd just sit in the corner and wait for anyone to approach her. A bad character or a monkey face, it didn't matter if they had money.”
Less than seven hours later, when John picked up Siti, she was dressed in tight jeans and a favorite red turtleneck sweater, which exposed her hourglass midriff. Smiling, she revealed braces. She looked younger than 24.
At the upscale Pavilion Mall, among shops like Dior and Hermès, John introduced her to “James,” a handsome 30-year-old “Japanese” man. Siti said that her name was “Nidya,” an alias she often used in Malaysia. (Even close friends like B would not learn Siti's real background until her mug shot appeared on TV.) Because James could not speak Bahasa, the language of Indonesia and Malaysia, he and Siti communicated in choppy English, occasionally resorting to Google Translate. James explained that he was producing a hidden-camera comedy show, which would be shown on YouTube in China and Japan.
Then James directed Siti to rub a baby-oil-like substance on the face of a seemingly unsuspecting Vietnamese woman while his smartphone recorded the scene. Nothing seemed strange because everything was handled so publicly. James even insisted Siti apologize after slathering her mark.
Later that morning, they hit another classy mall, and Siti was paid again. When James suggested they make a video at the airport the following day, she happily agreed. In minutes she was earning more than she usually made in a day. And besides, a friend would later say, she had always dreamed of being an actress.
The only peculiarity John ever noticed about James was that every time James called, his phone number had changed. But B suspects that John didn't want to endanger his finder's fee, and minor secrets were expected in their street-hustler world.
John had expected to continue fixing, but Siti told him that she wasn't going to meet James again. Perhaps, B speculated, she did not want to cut John in on the money. But actually, for the next four days, Siti was completing two-a-days with James—training, she thought, to become a star.
Siti had traveled a long way to become a prostitute in Kuala Lumpur.
She was born in 1992 in Ranca Sumur, a hamlet located in the conservative heartland of Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic country. Ranca Sumur's approximately 500 inhabitants raised rice and water buffalo. Siti grew up scouring the nearby forest for firewood, bathing in streams, and catching crickets, skewering them on bamboo slivers and roasting them over coals.
She was named after the Prophet's favorite wife, “Mother of the Believers,” and her neighbors remember her as a quiet and religious girl. She usually arrived 10 to 20 minutes early to the terra-cotta-tiled mosque for services because her father often sang the call to prayer. At age 9, she put on a headscarf to attend the town's newly opened religious school, which today is sponsored by a hard-line Islamic organization identified by many experts as a terrorist group.
Her education ended after sixth grade—Ranca Sumur had no middle school. Instead, she spent her days helping her father, Asria Nur Hasan, chop ginger and turmeric. Then Asria would balance 40-pound sacks of the spices at each end of a bamboo slat laid across his shoulders and flip-flop through country markets hawking his wares.
Siti might never have looked beyond the oceanic paddies surrounding her home if Jakarta, the country's nearby capital, had not been exploding into a modern metropolis of 30 million inhabitants. Many villagers viewed city life as irreligious and dangerous, but not Siti, whose vision of a glamorous and cosmopolitan city was shaped by what she glimpsed on TV. As Benah, Siti's mother, told me, “Jakarta was her irresistible desire.”
So when Siti was 14, a relative arranged work for her at a small sweatshop in a tenement neighborhood in Jakarta. Her world shrank to three pasteboard-walled rooms stuffed with sewing machines and mountains of cloth. She labored 13-hour days for $50 a month, sweeping the thousand square feet and snipping untamed threads from knockoff high-end dresses. The steam from an industrial iron she wielded to package each dress turned her unventilated corner into a hellish sauna. But she could only stare at the factory's single faraway window barred with rusted iron. The bosses were known for keeping the door locked, so she rarely escaped.
Less than a mile away, at a skyscraper mall, rich Jakartans sipped Starbucks. But as many migrants have discovered recently, that gap between moving to the city and succeeding there is often too great to bridge. As one young man working in Siti's former sweatshop told me, gesturing to the mound of dress scraps he slept on as a bed, “City life looks nice on TV, but then you live like this.”
The sweatshop's neighbors recollected Siti as a mousy, chubby kid who was too shy to chat. But they began gossiping when she started walking to the market with the sweatshop owner's son, Gunawan Hasyim. The two married when Siti was 16 and had a baby boy shortly thereafter.
Siti had worked first at a sweatshop in Jakarta, left, and later as a prostitute at the Beach Club in Kuala Lumpur.
By 2011 the sweatshop was struggling, and Gunawan sought his fortune in Malaysia, where he waited tables and Siti worked as a shopgirl. For Siti, Kuala Lumpur must have seemed like a bizarre version of Jakarta, sharing a language and culture—but much wealthier and run on the backs of migrants. The NGO Migrant Care calculates that around 400,000 Indonesians a year make a similar journey legally and that an additional 600,000 do so illegally.
In 2012, the young couple divorced acrimoniously after Gunawan accused Siti of infidelity, and Siti returned briefly to Ranca Sumur with their son. But she soon left to work at a women's clothing store on Batam, an island near Malaysia. Siti now had to earn money to help support her family, and life in the small village may not have fit her as well as it had in her childhood. As Anis Hidayah, an executive at Migrant Care, explained, “It is difficult for women who have lived abroad to return to their villages. They may not have any way of making a living, and they have experienced having more freedom of expression.” Certainly, Siti wanted a more modern life for her son—she relinquished custody to Gunawan's parents in Jakarta so he would be educated in the city.
Scrolling through Siti's Facebook posts over the subsequent four years is like watching a time-lapse of her transformation from ingenue to fille de joie. At first, she collaged her wall with awkward selfies, which showed her trying on different clothing styles, including veils. But gradually the religious vestments were replaced by lacy black garments. Instead of posting about how Allah had helped her endure heartbreak, she humble-bragged about meeting girlfriends at trendy coffee shops. She grew thinner and began wearing striking makeup. By the time she returned to Kuala Lumpur in early 2015, she was posting pictures in which she fixed the viewer with come-hither stares.
At first, she was employed at a spa underneath the misleadingly named Hotel Grand Continental, a down-market establishment but one that still paid better than clerking in Indonesia. In July, when I descended its piss-smelling stairwell to dungeon-like rooms lit with incense sticks, I was promptly offered prostitutes.
After just a few months, Siti moved to the Hotel Flamingo, where she received a slightly improved salary. Eventually she acclimated to her new profession, and she casually complained to B about one-customer days. Under the name “Kelly,” Siti appeared on the escort website Haven4Men.com, showing off her braces with a smile and wearing contacts that colored her irises blue, offering “blowjob, *, overnight” for about $40.
Every evening, she heard the call to prayer echoing through Kuala Lumpur at the same time her father probably ululated across the paddies, “Come to prayer! Come to success! God is the greatest!” But friends remember that she no longer answered the summons.
By early 2017, despite the happy-go-lucky facade she presented on Facebook, she was despairing of her nightlife. B said that Siti may have started taking meth to gin herself up to work. On her occasional trips home, she bought fried meatballs from street vendors for neighborhood children and took her parents on holidays, but she could not bear to tell them the truth about the origins of her money. Every 30 days, when her tourist visa expired, she exited Malaysia. But she always returned to Kuala Lumpur on a new one, for it had become her home.
After James enticed Siti with his too-good-to-be-true offer of salvation, they toured the luxury hotels and malls of Kuala Lumpur from January 5 through 9, smearing oil and hot sauce on Chinese-looking men. Each prank was rewarded with another windfall.
According to Siti's lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, before long, “Siti started telling James she was tired of her present career, and that she looked forward to the new life of being a star.” She bragged to acquaintances that she was going to be a celebrity. When a friend video-called Siti on her birthday and joked with her that she would soon outshine a famous Malaysian actress, Siti agreed, laughing and jauntily flipping her hair.
At least once, Siti asked to see the recordings of herself, but James told her the film was still being edited and, according to her cousin, wouldn't let her see it because it would make her self-conscious.
Then, on January 21, James flew her to Cambodia for more “spoofing,” as they called it. Gooi told me, “It was when she went overseas that she really started to believe she could escape her old life.” James had even suggested she might spoof people in America.
In Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, James informed Siti that “Chang,” a 34-year-old “Chinese” man who spoke fluent Bahasa, would replace him. Chang led Siti through three practice sessions at the airport.
Siti passed the end of the month back home in Ranca Sumur, with her family. She was there when Chang called, ordering her to return to Kuala Lumpur. Before flying out of Jakarta, Siti visited her son a final time.
“The first four times Indonesian officials visited Siti after the arrest, she thought that being in jail was part of the prank,” said Andreano Erwin, the acting Indonesian ambassador in Malaysia.
On February 3, 4, and 7, Siti dirtied victims at Kuala Lumpur's airport under Chang's supervision. He increased her salary to two American Benjamins per hit, instead of half that in Malaysian ringgits. On February 8, Chang gave Siti $4,000 to arrange a trip to Macau—Jong-nam's home. But the next day he canceled that. Jong-nam was already in Malaysia.
Two days later, she practiced again at the airport. It was Siti's 25th birthday, and when they were finished, Chang bought her a taxi ticket home as a present. He told her that the next prank would be in a few days, on February 13.
Siti spent her last innocent night at a Hard Rock Cafe decorated with an enshrined Gwen Stefani bra. Her friends chipped in for a steak that cost two-thirds of her monthly salary at the sweatshop. An American pop song wailed over the speakers: I was supposed to do great things. At a table laden with fruit-bedecked cocktails, a friend announced, “And now the person next to me will become a celebrity!” Siti exposed her braces and bashfully tossed her hair. After her friends sang “Happy Birthday,” she blew out a lone candle on a cupcake-sized cake. Then they clubbed into the witching hours.
By 8 A.M., Siti was drinking coffee with Chang in a faux-Colonial coffeehouse that offered an excellent view of the airport terminal. Finally, Chang led her behind a pillar near the AirAsia self-check-in kiosks. There, Chang told her that a second woman would join the prank and that she should leave after the second woman struck. When Jong-nam strolled into the terminal, Chang identified him to Siti by noting his gray blazer and dark backpack. Then he told her to look away and stick out her hand, likely while unwrapping something from a white plastic bag he'd withdrawn from his black backpack. An oily substance slicked her palm. She noticed it smelled like machine oil, though the previous liquids had been odorless. Chang reminded her to apologize after striking and to leave quickly, since the target “looks rich.”
As Jong-nam approached, Chang ducked away, and Siti advanced on her target. After rubbing Jong-nam's face, Siti fled. Her first few strides were measured, but by the time she neared the bathrooms, she was running. There, as she'd been instructed, she washed her hands of the affair. Then she went shopping at a middle-class mall. By the afternoon, she was laboring again at the spa, awaiting the next spoof, which would inch her closer to the life she had dreamed of when she had left Ranca Sumur.
What Siti would not comprehend until weeks later was that the North Koreans had stage-managed every detail of her recruitment and the assassination.
James, Siti's original handler, who'd been introduced as Japanese, had really been a North Korean named Ri Ji-u. He had met John, the taxi driver, while taking his cab and then asked for his help in finding girls. According to B, John had first brought Ri a Filipina, who had demanded too much money. He also introduced the agent to a Vietnamese woman (later she would be used as Siti's first practice target), before ultimately connecting him with Siti.
From that moment on, Siti had been puppeteered across the globe by men who had been patiently preparing for this task, carefully amassing assets from across Asia. When Siti was flown to Cambodia, the man who took over for James was not really named Chang but Hong Song-hac. He was a North Korean intelligence officer who had studied Bahasa at an Indonesian university and then worked at the embassy in Jakarta. Doan had also visited Cambodia two days earlier, escorted by a North Korean agent with years of experience in Vietnam. While Hong and Siti practiced in Phnom Penh's airport, three other spymasters who would later direct the murder had lurked nearby, too. The reasons for assembling the team are clear only to the North Koreans, but it's possible they'd hoped to intercept Jong-nam, as he sometimes visited the city's casinos.
When I met Nam Sung-wook, a professor at Korea University who had previously led a research arm with South Korea's intelligence agency, he told me, “This murder was all part of a master plan.”
Citing contacts in intelligence communities, he explained, “From the moment Jong-nam left Macau, the North Koreans tailed him. They had a group on his airplane. As soon as he arrived at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, another group followed him. They kept that surveillance up while he slept.” Even as Jong-nam entered the terminal, he was shadowed.
The liquid that Siti rubbed on Jong-nam's face was likely not true VX. Experts have suggested that a modified version of normal VX—VX2—was employed instead. As Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT who holds two degrees in chemical engineering, explained to me, “VX2 is made by dividing VX into two nonreactive compounds. What the women were likely doing was creating active VX on Jong-nam's face by each delivering their ingredient.”
This complicated method of poisoning Jong-nam would have had several advantages. First, the toxin would have been safe until activated. Even then, VX2 is not very volatile compared with other chemical weapons, meaning it was less likely to affect bystanders or first responders. If VX2 was employed, it's unlikely Siti would have been affected, as striking first she never would have been exposed to the second reactant. (Gooi dismissed reports that Siti vomited while taking a taxi from the airport.) And Doan may have avoided absorbing enough to make her ill, as there was only a minimal amount of toxin on the thick skin of her palms and she quickly washed it off.
As Jong-nam sauntered toward the self-check-in kiosks, at least five North Korean agents directed Siti and Doan throughout the cavernous terminal. Once Hong escaped to the bathroom after dispensing the VX, a fat North Korean lurked nearby to oversee Siti's and Doan's strikes. A third agent monitored the attack from the coffee shop where Siti had previously sat. And as Siti and Doan fled after poisoning Jong-nam, a fourth operative, later identified as a high-level spy likely responsible for the success of the mission, brushed past them and may have exchanged signals with them confirming the stunt had been successfully pulled off.
A fifth North Korean, pulling a black roller bag, eavesdropped as Jong-nam spoke his last words at the airport information desk, complaining of pain and trying to explain the attack. As the dying man stumbled toward the medical clinic, he followed, one hand casually plugging his pocket. Through the glass walls of the waiting room, he watched as the ex-prince slumped into unconsciousness. He maintained his post as the body was rushed to an ambulance.
It was only once the ambulance's doors closed that Jong-nam finally escaped the eye of the Supreme Leader. Finally, he had the privacy to die.
Meanwhile, when Hong exited the bathroom, the black backpack and white plastic bag he'd carried during the attack had vanished. He had changed his long-sleeve gray T-shirt for a short-sleeve maroon one. Only his original shoes remained. With the four other agents, he cleared immigration. A high-level staff member of the North Korean embassy saw them off on flights pre-scheduled to depart right after the assassination. They took a circuitous flight path, circumventing countries that might have grounded their planes should the murder have been discovered while they were in transit.
By the time anyone guessed what had happened, they were already safe in Pyongyang.
“The first four times Indonesian officials visited Siti after the arrest, she thought that being in jail was part of the prank,” said Andreano Erwin, the acting Indonesian ambassador in Malaysia, when I met him at his embassy. Because she did not follow the news, she had no idea anyone had died at the airport, according to her attorney. For Siti, it had just been another normalized prank. “The first time we visited her, she kept asking when she could leave the jail. The second, she complained that she still hadn't been paid for the last prank. The third time, she accused us of being part of the prank. The fourth time, we showed her a newspaper proving Kim Jong-nam had died. When she saw it, she started to cry.”
At the end of July, Siti was led into court, a policewoman gripping each of her arms and a bulletproof vest turtled over her traditional Malaysian dress. Through her lawyer, she has consistently claimed she was tricked and has pleaded not guilty. After the judge announced that the trial would start in October, she wept. Erwin explained, “That's when she fully realized how serious this was.”
While Siti prepares for trial in Malaysia, her parents anxiously await her return to their village.
As Siti gained weight in a cell near Doan's, she wondered how deep the North Koreans' deception had penetrated. When confronted with pictures of Hong, she recalled that a man she had smeared in the Double Tree Hotel bore an uncanny resemblance to him—two weeks before she had formally met him. (This suggested that the seemingly unsuspecting marks targeted during the practice sessions could have been knowing participants all along, ensuring that none of the “victims” would contact the police.)
At first, Siti avoided communicating with her family from prison out of shame, but when she was permitted to call them during Ramadan, she begged, “Forgive me, body and soul.” When the call to prayer echoed through the prison five times a day, she submitted to the words of her father.
By late July, I'd visited Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, and Jakarta. One evening, I found myself in the mossy brick alleys and swampy paddies of Ranca Sumur, Siti's village, helping her parents unroll prayer rugs across their concrete porch for a village-wide ceremony for Siti. As we worked, they exclaimed: “She was our little girl. We loved her more than our own lives.” Grief had been embossed on their bodies, in nervous tics and sleeplessness.
Siti's parents asked what would happen at the trial. I told them I didn't know. To that point, the Malaysian police had so far founded their prosecution on the meticulous planning of the attack. The only evidence they had offered suggesting that the women had foreknowledge of Jong-nam's death was that they cleaned their hands after the poisoning, which, it was argued, showed that they knew they had used a toxin. However, both defense teams have claimed that the North Koreans told their clients to wash off the liquid without informing them what it was. (For his part, Siti's lawyer doesn't concede that the airport surveillance footage shows Siti applying the deadly agent to Kim Jong-nam's face. He says that it's up to the prosecution to prove that's what happened.)
The only hint that Siti knew the identity of the North Koreans was that before the murder she told a friend that she was going to become a star in Pyongyang.
And, as Gooi explained, Siti's mental state at the time is crucial: “Under Malaysian law, it's not murder if there was no intention to kill. My client was tricked and thus lacked intent to commit a crime.” He continued, “Siti didn't even know the difference between South and North Korea!”
Siti's friends and family also described her as a naive mark. As B said, “Siti was just a village girl. She had no idea what she was doing.”
Based on my reporting, the only hint that Siti knew the identity of the North Koreans was that before the murder she told a friend that she was going to become a star in Pyongyang and later repeated this to a senior Indonesian diplomat—though both clarified she still believed she was participating in a comedy.
But, I explained to Siti's parents, new evidence, like an incriminating WhatsApp message chain (she used the service to communicate with North Koreans), could emerge in court, disproving her ignorance. And while it is unclear what additional evidence, if any, the Malaysian government has, its hell-bent pursuit of a conviction may signal it has something up its sleeve. However, many observers think that the Malaysians—embarrassed to have hosted the assassination—are simply eager to punish someone for the crime.
Ultimately, while following Siti's trail, I was haunted by the feeling of approaching but not quite reaching her. The closest I came was outside the court after her trial date was announced, as the wind from her racing police van flipped the pages of my notebook. But the window that would have let me see her was tinted black.
During the evening I spent in Ranca Sumur, about 50 men in Islamic formalwear knelt on the porch of Siti's home and an imam dirged the Prayer of Mercy and Protection, silencing the night frogs. Incrementally, the men echoed him, until the whole community prayed.
The chorus intensified until the men were yelling and Asria's face was transfixed between rapture and anguish as he shouted for his daughter to be delivered. What mattered to him was not the baffling geopolitical intrigue that had discarded her as a pawn. What mattered to him was that she returned home.
Looking at the fallout of the assassination, it's easy to buy into the caricature that it was the botched work of an incompetent dictatorship. Throughout the mission, the North Korean agents did not bother to hide their faces from the CCTV cameras, which can be interpreted as a rookie error.
But there is another possibility.
As the Korea University professor Nam told me, “Pyongyang wanted to send a worldwide message by murdering Kim Jong-nam in this gruesome, public way.”
It has long been speculated that Jong-nam had been sheltered by China, viewed as a potential figurehead replacement should his half brother be deposed, as he was known to be favorable to Chinese interests.
Nam explained, “Pyongyang wanted to horrify the rest of the world by releasing a chemical weapon at an airport.” By unleashing such weaponry in a place symbolically shared by the global community—an international airport—North Korea was warning everyone not to cross it. As Nam concluded, “Jong-un wants to reign a long time and negotiate as a superpower. The only way to do that is to keep the world in fear of his weapons. He has a grand design, and this is part of it.”
In the end, Pyongyang suffered no significant consequences from the assassination. The people on death row for the murder are two Southeast Asian women, whom Nam believes are not guilty.
When I stepped out of Nam's office into the neon-lit concrete canyons of Seoul, my skin goose-pimpled at the feeling of danger dialing in on me. Thirty-five miles away, North Korea had dug in more than 8,000 artillery cannons, which could rain 300,000 rounds in an hour on the city's 10 million inhabitants. And that isn't even counting the devastation that Pyongyang could wreak with its nuke-tipped ICBMs.
As I ran through Seoul's governmental district to escape a storm burst, TVs blared that North Korea had developed missiles capable of reaching Alaska. In late July, Pyongyang would test an even more advanced ICBM, capable of striking most of the continental United States. And by August, President Trump and Jong-un were menacing each other with nuclear war.
Since the Soviet Union crumbled, America has forgotten what it's like to live under perpetual existential threat. In front of the monumental South Korean capitol, I realized that the spot where I stood was likely to be one of the first cratered—and yet, South Koreans strolled past me on the sidewalk, carrying on as they must, their flimsy umbrellas barely shielding them from the fusillade of rain.
The crosshairs that Jong-nam always felt on his back, that Siti perhaps should have sensed on herself, that South Koreans have accepted, have finally settled on us.
Doug Bock Clark's first book, ‘The Last Whalers,’ will be published next year.
This story originally appeared in the October 2017 issue with the title “The Untold Story of the Accidental Assassins of North Korea.”
Why Trump Is Always (Always!) the Victim
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."