North Korean man dies after becoming ill at Malaysia airport

The murder comes just days after North Korea conducted its latest ballistic missile test, firing a projectile into the sea just off the coast of the Korean Peninsula.

Malaysian authorities say they have detained a woman in the suspicious death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, Kim Jong Nam.

"It is important we have a very good security system (at the airport) and our airport is safe", he said to reporters at the ministry here.

She was pictured in surveillance footage linked to Kim's death, police said.

Malaysian police said Kim had been at the airport's budget terminal to catch a flight to Macau on Monday when someone grabbed or held his face from behind, after which he felt dizzy and sought help at an information desk. However Nam is said to have spoken out against his family's dynastic control of North Korea.

A second woman was suspected in Kim's death but was still at large.

He has since lived in exile, with much of his time spent in the gambling enclave of Macau, where he was believed to have enjoyed some protection from Chinese security forces. Kim Jong-nam died in an ambulance on his way to a hospital. His half-brother is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (right).

Despite the attempts on his life, Kim Jong Nam had reportedly travelled to North Korea since then, so it was assumed he was no longer under threat.

"I think he represented an alternative path which North Korea might have taken some years ago where some aspects of the Kim family system could have been retained alongside reforms toward a more collective leadership and an actual opening up to the outside world", said Adam Cathcart, a North Korea expert at Leeds University in the United Kingdom.

The big mystery, if he didn't die of natural causes, is why Kim Jong Nam was attacked, and why now.

Among Kim Jong Un's executions and purgings, the most spectacular was the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, once considered the country's second-most powerful man, for what the North alleged was treason.

Kim Jong Il had at least three sons with two women, as well as a daughter by a third.

The eldest son of the late ruler Kim Jong-il was expected to succeed his father, but his younger half-brother ascended instead. It's unclear what positon he has in the North Korean government.

  • Larry Hoffman