The Chinese authorities have arrested members of an assassination squad sent to kill the nephew of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, according to a report.
The seven-man team was dispatched to kill Kim Han-sol, the 22-year-old son of Kim Jong-nam, the older brother of the dictator who died in February after being poisoned with nerve agent at a Malaysian airport, South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbonewspaper reported.
Two of the assassins were arrested by Chinese state security agents last week and are being interrogated in Beijing, the newspaper said, adding that they are members of North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is responsible for overseas espionage.
The hit squad was said to be hunting for Han-sol, who was spirited away to safety from the family home in Macau after his father’s assassination.
An Indonesian and a Vietnamese woman are on trial for the murder, which South Korea says was masterminded by agents from Pyongyang.
South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said it did not know about any assassination plot.
Kim Jong-nam spent much of his later life outside North Korea and in interviews was critical of his younger brother’s regime. In emails published five years ago he declared it was “a joke” doomed to collapse.
Han-sol grew up in Macau and attended an international school in the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, an institution dedicated to training young people to promote peace and unity — in stark contrast with the xenophobic nationalist propaganda that is drilled into North Koreans.
Han-sol first made news in 2012 when he appeared on social networking sites, describing himself as a Christian and wearing a crucifix in photographs. On one blog he listed one of his favourite films as Love Actually starring Hugh Grant, and his favourite female musician as Katy Perry.
Later that year he told a Finnish interviewer that he grew up not knowing he was the scion of the world’s only hereditary communist state, and that he has never met his uncle Kim Jong-un, or his grandfather, the former supreme leader, Kim Jong-il.
“I never really met them in real life so I really don’t know how he became a dictator,” he said. “It was between him and my grandfather.”
“I was waiting for him [Kim Jong-il] until . . . he passed away, hoping he will come find me because I really didn’t know if he knew that I existed,” Han-sol said. “I was really curious . . . I just wanted to know what kind of person he is and just wanted to know more about his personal things.”
A few weeks after his father’s death, he appeared on a short internet video saying that he and his younger sister and mother had been taken to a safe place by an organisation called Cheollima Civil Defence.
He said: “This will be the first and last statement on this particular matter, and the present whereabouts of this family will not be addressed.”
Originally posted on The Times