Kim Jong Nam murder probe: North Korean suspect is son of ex-envoy to Vietnam

Reports say Ri Ji Hyon lured Doan Thi Huong into the plot to kill Kim Jong Nam using his fluent Vietnamese language.

North Korean agents kill Kim Jong-un's half-brother Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia
Kim Jong Nam arrives at Beijing airport in Beijing, China, in this photo taken by Kyodo February 11, 2007. Picture taken February 11, 2007. Kyodo/via REUTERS

A North Korean suspect involved in the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the exiled half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is reportedly the son of a former top North Korean envoy to Vietnam, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday. The suspect allegedly lured a Vietnamese female suspect to join the plot.

The agency quoted sources as saying that Ri Ji Hyon is the son of former North Korean ambassador to Hanoi, Ri Hong, and had lived in Vietnam for about 10 years. According to the sources, the 33-year-old Ri Ji Hyon worked as a trainee diplomat at the North Korean embassy for more than one year and he also worked as an interpreter.

Yonhap also reported that Ri lured Doan Thi Huong into the plot to kill Kim using his fluent Vietnamese language.

Jong-nam was assassinated by two foreign women who smeared VX nerve agent, a chemical listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction, on his face at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 departure hall at about 9 am on 13 February before his flight to Macau.

Malaysian police arrested both the women in the days after the attack. Huong, the Vietnamese woman, was detained 48 hours in the same airport. However, Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, was detained a day later. They have been charged with murder but they claim they were told that the act was a prank on a reality show.

The authorities said that Ri is among four North Korean suspects, who left Malaysia on the day Kim was murdered, and they are believed to have returned to Pyongyang. Interpol has already issued a red notice to track down and arrest them.

Reports said Malaysian police have also asked for assistance from the North Korean embassy to interview two other North Koreans, one of whom is an airline employee and the other a senior diplomat based in Kuala Lumpur.

However, last month, Khalid Abu Bakar, the Inspector-General of Police conceded that while police could issue an arrest warrant for Air Koryo employee Kim Uk Il, but they could not do the same for Second Secretary Hyon Kwang Song, who has diplomatic immunity.

It is believed that Kim has been assassinated on the orders of his estranged half-brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.