South Korea's intelligence chief blamed North Korea Wednesday for assassinating the half brother of its autocratic leader Kim Jong-un, saying the daylight operation at a crowded airport in Malaysia represents the leader's "paranoid" personality.
There has been no conclusive evidence, but South Korean officials believe definitely that North Korean agents were responsible for the killing of Kim Jong-nam who had been in exile with his family especially since the death of his father in late 2011.
"The assassination of Kim Jong-nam has been a standing order since Kim Jong-un took power," Lee Byung-ho, director of South Korea's many spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), told a parliamentary intelligence committee.
Following a failed attempt to assassinate him in 2012, Jong-nam sent a letter to his stepbrother in Pyongyang, begging for the life of himself and his family, Lee said. His remarks were conveyed by lawmakers who attended the closed session.
In his letter, Jong-nam revealed a sense of desperation saying he and his family "had no place to go and the only way to escape is suicide". the NIS chief said. Under the protection of Beijing, Jong-nam's first wife and their son were staying in Beijing while his second wife was living with her son and daughter in Macau, Lee said.
Jong-nam urged his stepbrother to retract his "standing order", but North Korean intelligence authorities faithfully executed a long-planned plot to assassinate him, Lee said.
"There was no particular meaning in the timing of assassination as a long-standing order was executed," Lee said, adding it's not the leader's calculated act to remove a threat to his rule but reflects his "paranoid" personality.
Two women involved in the attack with poison were still on the run in Malaysia, the NIS chief said, adding that Jong-nam had never tried to defect, though he had no faction or group in Pyongyang to support him.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said the assassination represents the "brutal, inhumane" nature of the communist regime. "This would be a telltale example of the brutal, inhumane nature of the Kim Jong-un regime," he said at the National Security Council (NSC) meeting involving top security-related officials.
Lim Chang-won = firstname.lastname@example.org