'Assassins': Did Kim Jong-nam know he’d be assassinated? Friend says he was scared after Kim Jong-un took over

'Assassins' a documentary directed and produced by Ryan White who is well known for his Netflix series 'The Keepers' and HBO's movie 'The Case Against 8' gives us an insight into the infamous assassination of Kim Jong-nam

                            'Assassins': Did Kim Jong-nam know he’d be assassinated? Friend says he was scared after Kim Jong-un took over

'Assassins', a documentary directed and produced by Ryan White gives us an insight into the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of the current most powerful North Korean man -- Kim Jong-un. Jong-nam was once also the heir apparent, but that was only until he fell out of favor with his powerful family after which he ended up being discarded with his brother Jong-un taking over. There are reports of Jong-nam becoming a CIA asset and that is something we will have to tackle a tad bit later, but for now, the question that we would like to ask is if Jong-nam knew that he was in danger and if plans for his assassination were something that he had expected.

According to a report in Reuters, six months before his death on February 13, 2017, at the Kuala Lumpur International airport, Jong-nam had informed his best friend in Malaysia that he was scared. The officer in charge of investigating Jong-nam's death Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz later in court quoted interviews by police officials and said, "Six months before the incident on Feb. 13, Kim Jong Nam said ‘I am scared for my life and I want a driver’." 

In another interview, a close friend of Jong-nam called Anthony Sahakian, from his teenage years at a prestigious international school in a Swiss city, told The Guardian, that his friend spent his last few years highly paranoid as he hid from the regime that was hunting him. Jong-nam, Sahakian revealed, was open-minded and it was possibly his views and personality that led to his exile and in the end, even to his death. Sahakian said, "We actually did discuss the regime, his half-brother, about things going on there. One thing I can say, he was never interested in power." However, he explained that Jong-nam was aware that his younger half-brother, Kim Jong-un who took over as the ruler of North Korea in 2011 after their father Kim Jong-il died, might see him as a threat to the autocratic rule. 

The friend also revealed, "He wanted out. He never had any ambitions to rule the country. He didn’t accept or appreciate what was going on there. He kept relations with the regime at arm’s length." Sahakian was also able to give an abstract idea of what Jong-nam's political views were and what his thoughts were on his brother's regime. He said, "He was afraid. It wasn’t an all-encompassing fear but he was paranoid. He was a politically important person. He was worried. Of course, he was worried." Another thing that Jong-nam made clear to reporters while he was alive was that he hadn't "defected". He hadn't given up his citizenship and yet, having been brought up in Switzerland, he was a product of European education that shaped his worldview. 

So, considering how he knew he could be in danger, why did Jong-nam travel to Malaysia? Kim Jong-un's half-brother was in exile according to reports, but the reason behind this is not public knowledge. There are also speculations that his exile could very well have been motivated by himself. He lived for the most part in Macau, but traveled to Malaysia and even Singapore at times. In the trial that followed Jong-nam's death, the court heard in January 2018 that the North Korean political figure had met four Americans just days before he was killed. He had visited Langkawi Island just two days after arriving at Kuala Lumpur and he had met a Korean American. While the identity of this man was not confirmed officially, it was speculated by Japanese media that this man was an intelligence agent. 

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