Six weeks after the airport assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, Malaysia on Tuesday said it was still waiting for family to claim the body, denying rumours it had been sent back to Pyongyang.
The half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un was poisoned with the lethal nerve agent VX in a brazen Cold War-style assassination on February 13 in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
“There have been a lot of rumours that the body was cremated but we would not do this without the responsible parties giving us directives or agreement,” Health Minister S. Subramaniam told reporters.
In recent days, there has been some speculation that Kuala Lumpur had done a deal with Pyongyang to send the body to North Korea, in exchange for the return of nine Malaysians being prevented from leaving by Kim Jong-Un’s regime.
Other reports had suggested the corpse would be transported to Macau, where Kim had been living with his family.
“The body is still in the morgue at Hospital Kuala Lumpur,” Subramaniam said, adding it would remain there until the government had decided what to do.
Kuala Lumpur has been waiting for the next of kin to come forward and claim the body, but as this has not happened, they are now seeking other solutions.
Kim’s wife and children, who were living in exile in the Chinese territory of Macau, staged a vanishing act after the murder. There are fears his 21-year-old son, Kim Han-Sol, could be targeted next and the family is thought to be in hiding.
The killing has triggered a bitter row between Malaysia and North Korea, which have expelled each other’s ambassadors and barred their citizens from leaving.
Two women — one Vietnamese and one Indonesian — have been arrested and charged with the murder. Airport CCTV footage shows them approaching the 45-year-old victim and apparently smearing his face with a piece of cloth.
Investigators are seeking seven North Korean suspects, four of whom left Malaysia on the day of the murder.
The police chief has said he believes they fled to Pyongyang while the other three are hiding in North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Seoul has blamed Pyongyang for his death, but the North denies this, refusing to confirm the identity of the victim, who was carrying a passport bearing the name of Kim Chol when he was attacked.
Malaysia has officially confirmed his identity using DNA evidence.