Kim Jong-un’s Half Brother Might’ve Been Assassinated As Retribution For Colluding With The U.S.

Published June 12, 2019

In 2017, two women snuck up on Kim Jong-nam at an airport in Kuala Lumpur and dosed him with VX nerve gas. Now, an inside source claims that his alleged role as a CIA informant might have had something to do with it.

Kim Jong-nam

JoongAng Sunday/AFP/Getty ImagesKim Jong-nam, the eldest son of Kim Jong-il, was meant to succeed his father as North Korea’s leader but fell out of favor in the 2000s.

In 2017, Kim Jong-nam, the older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, died under extremely suspicious circumstances at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The incident, captured by security cameras, saw two women rub his face with the deadly VX nerve agent.

Suspicions quickly fell on Kim Jong-un but the incident’s motives and inciting factors have nevertheless remained shrouded in mystery ever since.

According to The Wall Street Journal, however, new reports indicate that the deceased was an asset of the CIA.

An unidentified source claimed that Kim Jong-nam met with members of the intelligence agency numerous times before his death and was feeding them valuable information about the government of the secretive “Hermit Kingdom.”

“There was a nexus” between Kim Jong-nam and the CIA, the source claimed. As such, it seems quite plausible that his death was a case of violent retribution for what Kim Jong-un’s government saw as treasonous activities.

An NBC News segment on the new reports that Kim Jong-nam was an informant for the CIA.

While this enticing narrative of a double-crossing brother leaking info to the CIA is the type of engrossing, political pulp of Tom Clancy’s dreams, some remain unconvinced. No details about Kim Jong-nam’s supposed relationship with the agency exist besides one unnamed source’s minimal proclamations.

Numerous former U.S. officials, too, said the half brother had lived outside of North Korea for years before his untimely death — and wouldn’t have had any thorough details to share, that he had no personal relationships with those in power and wouldn’t have been able to do any deep digging.

On the other hand, Kim Jong-nam has been known to provide China’s intelligence services with priceless information for quite some time and even chose the country’s enclave of Macau as his primary home. Both China and the CIA have yet to respond to the validity of these potential, secretive workings.

Kim Jong-nam With Reporters

JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty ImagesKim Jong-nam is said to have met with CIA operatives numerous times, and fed information to the Chinese, as well. Beijing International Airport. Feb. 11, 2007.

Primarily, the notion that the CIA would attempt to form a functional, beneficial relationship with Kim Jong-un’s half brother is entirely in keeping with the agency’s history. There’s no individual innocuous enough not to turn or to use as an unofficial operative who has access that the agency doesn’t.

The theory makes sense, particularly because former U.S. officials and analysts have long speculated that Kim Jong-nam would make a mutually beneficial successor to his brother’s reign — whenever the time came. On the other hand, U.S. intelligence agencies rejected the notion in the past, claiming Kim Jong-nam wouldn’t be capable of handling such a role.

The moment Kim Jong-nam was attacked with the VX nerve agent in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The source alleging that Kim Jong-nam was an asset of the CIA explained that U.S. officials sighed in relief in 2017 when this supposed relationship remained hidden following the man’s murder.

It was only three months later, however, that Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported that Kim Jong-nam had met with a Korean-American man suspected of being a U.S. intelligence operative while in Malaysia.

When the two women who poisoned the deceased went to trial, police testified that he spent numerous days meeting with an unidentified Korean-American man at a hotel on the island of Langkawi.

Furthermore, a Washington Post reporter’s new book is said to describe Kim Jong-nam’s relationship with the CIA. The Great Successor, is set to be published later this month — with no details yet as to how thorough Kim Jong-nam’s alleged role as an informant was.

Kim Jong-nam Crime Scene

Mat Zain/NurPhoto/Getty ImagesA hazmat team checking the Kim Jong-nam murder scene in Kuala Lumpur International Airport shortly after his death by poisoning. Feb. 26, 2017.

Ultimately, getting assets into North Korea and extracting information out of the reclusive state has proven one of the CIA’s most arduous tasks. With a lack of pretenses to enter and no U.S. embassy in the country, placing capable operatives within without detection is simply too difficult.

In May 2017, however, the CIA announced the Korea Mission Center — a hub aimed to collate data of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. It’s unknown whether this intelligence program also works to garner North Korean assets or informants.

Former State Department official Joel Wit said the CIA has had great success in relying on defectors of the totalitarian state to provide them with information regarding the above programs. On the other hand, he also explained that these sources have become increasingly unreliable.

“My experience has been that the CIA has repeatedly thought that it had well-placed sources in North Korea, human sources, that really knew what was going on… Those sources have more often than not proved to not know what’s going on.”

In the end, much about North Korea remains a mystery. Oddly enough, it was Kim Jong-nam who was meant to succeed his father, former leader Kim Jong-il’s eldest son. His popularity among the ranks heavily dipped in the 2000s, however — and Kim Jong-un came to the forefront, leaving his brother in his shadow until his untimely death.

After learning about Kim Jong-un’s half brother’s alleged role as a CIA informant, read about North Korea being enraged after John McCain called Kim Jong-un a “crazy fat kid.” Then, learn why the U.S. didn’t take that “clear shot” at Kim Jong-un.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Margaritoff, Marco. "Kim Jong-un’s Half Brother Might’ve Been Assassinated As Retribution For Colluding With The U.S..", June 12, 2019, Accessed June 25, 2024.