February 16, 2017 10:19
Monday's assassination of Kim Jong-nam was a "standing order" issued by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un when he took power five years ago, the National Intelligence Service here said Wednesday.
The NIS told lawmakers that Kim Jong-nam sent a letter to the North Korean leader in April 2012 begging him to "spare his life and those of his family" after an assassination attempt the same year.
But the spy agency denied that Jong-nam attempted to defect to South Korea.
Lawmakers after the closed-door Intelligence Committee meeting quoted NIS chief Lee Byung-ho as saying, "We should not place too much significance on the timing of the assassination. It was the execution of a standing order that was issued a long time ago. Rather than a calculated move under the perception that Kim Jong-nam is a threat, it appears to be a reflection of Kim Jong-un's paranoid characteristics."
But critics were unconvinced. One defector who was a senior official in the North said, "It's hard to believe that it took agents five years to execute an order given directly by the leader. Kim Jong-nam was an easy target who used to go to restaurants and casinos without bodyguards. If the order wasn’t executed for five years, it would have been tantamount to dereliction of duty."
One expert at a state-run think tank said, "These adamant denials of a defection attempt are just raising more suspicions."
Pundits say Jong-nam had virtually no political clout in the North, so there must have been some urgent reason requiring his assassination.
"There is the possibility that Kim Jong-nam tried to defect and that Kim Jong-un killed him to prevent that from happening," Chung Sung-jang of the Sejong Institute said,
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