KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia >> North Korea said it will reject the results of an autopsy on its leader’s estranged half brother, the victim of an apparent assassination this week at an airport in Malaysia. Pyongyang’s ambassador said Malaysian officials may be “trying to conceal something” and “colluding with hostile forces.”
Indonesia’s police chief, meanwhile, said an Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the death of Kim Jong Nam was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank.
Speaking to reporters gathered outside the morgue in Kuala Lumpur today, North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol said Malaysia conducted the autopsy on Kim Jong Nam “unilaterally and excluding our attendance.”
Kim Jong Nam, who was 45 or 46 and had lived in exile for years, suddenly fell ill at the Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday as he waited for a flight home to Macau. Dizzy and in pain, he told medical workers at the airport he had been sprayed with a chemical. He died while being taken to a hospital.
“We will categorically reject the result of the post-mortem,” Kang said, adding that the move disregarded “elementary international laws and consular laws.”
Kang said the fact that Malaysia has yet to hand over the body “strongly suggests that the Malaysian side is trying to conceal something which needs more time and deceive us, and that they are colluding with the hostile forces towards us who are desperate to harm us.”
South Korea has accused its enemies in North Korea of dispatching a hit squad to kill Kim Jong Nam at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, saying two female assassins poisoned him and then fled in a taxi.
North Korean diplomats in Malaysia objected to an autopsy and had requested custody of Kim Jong Nam’s body, arguing that he had a North Korean passport. Malaysian authorities went ahead with the procedure anyway, saying they did not receive a formal complaint.
The autopsy could provide some clarity in a case marked by speculation, tales of intrigue and explosive, unconfirmed reports from dueling nations. Authorities were still awaiting the autopsy results.
Malaysia said today it wants DNA samples from Kim Jong Nam’s family as part of the post-mortem procedure and that officials were not yet willing to hand the body over to the North Koreans. Although Kim Jong Nam is believed to have two sons and a daughter with two women living in Beijing and Macau, police in Malaysia say none has come forward to claim the body or provide DNA samples.
“If there is no claim by next-of-kin and upon exhausting all avenues (to obtain DNA), we will finally then hand over the body to the (North Korean) embassy,” said Abdul Samah Mat, a senior Malaysian police official. He would not say how long that process might take.
Malaysian police have arrested three people in the investigation but have released few details.
Indonesian police chief Tito Karnavian, citing information received from Malaysian authorities, told reporters in Indonesia’s Aceh province that Siti Aisyah, 25, was paid to be involved in “Just For Laughs” style pranks, a reference to a popular hidden camera show. He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.
“Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong Nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer,” Karnavian said. “She was not aware that it was an assassination attempt by alleged foreign agents.”
Karnavian’s comments come after a male relative of Aisyah said in an Indonesian television interview that she had been hired to perform in a short comedy movie and traveled to China as part of this work. Indonesian Immigration has said Aisyah traveled to Malaysia and other countries it did not specify.
Investigators were still trying to piece together details of the case, and South Korea has not said how it concluded that North Korea was behind the killing.
Malaysian police were questioning three suspects — Aisyah, another woman who carried a Vietnamese passport, and a man they said is Aisyah’s boyfriend.
Kim Jong Nam was estranged from his younger half brother, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He reportedly fell out of favor with their father, the late Kim Jong Il, in 2001, when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
Yoji Gomi, a Japanese journalist who wrote a book about Kim Jong Nam, said he criticized the family regime and believed a leader should be chosen “through a democratic process.”
Gomi said he met Kim Jong Nam by chance at Beijing’s international airport in 2004, leading to exchanges of 150 emails and two interviews in 2011 — one in Beijing and another in Macau — totaling seven hours.
Kim Jong Nam appeared nervous during the interview in Macau, Gomi said.
“He must have been aware of the danger, but I believe he still wanted to convey his views to Pyongyang via the media,” Gomi said. “He was sweating all over his body, and seemed very uncomfortable when he responded to my questions. He was probably worried about the impact of his comments and expressions. The thought now gives me a pain in my heart.”