'Assassins': Who is Siti Aisyah? How Indonesian woman got duped by North Korean agents into killing Kim Jong-nam

Siti would only find out the whole truth about the situation she was in after her release more than a year later


                            'Assassins': Who is Siti Aisyah? How Indonesian woman got duped by North Korean agents into killing Kim Jong-nam
Siti Aisyah (Getty Images)

In Ryan White's latest documentary, 'Assassins', we learn about the assassination of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un's older half-brother, Kim Jong-nam. The assassination took place in Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur International Airport and was carried out by two unsuspecting women. While Siti Aisyah (from Indonesia) and Doan Thi Huong (from Vietnam) were both suspected to be internationally trained spies operating at the orders of North Korean agents, it was later revealed that both women had been tricked into performing the act under the pretense of a prank show. 

When 'Assassins' opens, Siti Aisyah's friends describe that her last post on social media was a celebration of her birthday at a local Hard Rock Cafe, as they say, that they never thought Siti to be capable of murder. So, how did Aisyah get embroiled in the biggest spy mystery of the 21st century? Aisyah was born in an Indonesian village in 1992 and had left school at the age of 12 to be able to support her family. In Jakarta, Siti worked in a clothing manufacturer's company, got married to the owner, and became a mother to a son when she was just 17 years old. She later divorced him and moved to Malaysia, where she worked as a spa worker. However, that was just a cover for Siti's job as a sex worker, one of many in Malaysia's rampant trafficking industry. 

While waiting for customers one night, she was approached by a taxi driver, who informed her that he knew of a Japanese man looking for actresses for an Asian prank show. Of the many women whom the taxi driver -- identified as "John" in the documentary -- approached, it was only Siti who responded. John himself had been asked by James at the front of a mall entrance, saying he was from a Japanese production company, and asked John's help to find actresses. In reality, James was a North Korean agent – who remains unidentified to this day.

Following this, Siti agreed to be a part of the prank show as James continued to "film" Siti pulling pranks on unsuspecting passers-by. One of those pranks was recurring in which Siti would approach a stranger from behind and close their eyes – sometimes with baby oil or lotion slathered on her palms, then apologize and move away. Although Siti did not find the pranks very funny, James told her that Japanese prank shows have a different style.

James and a collaborator who spoke Indonesian would have Siti pull pranks across different southeast Asian countries, in what viewers would realize was practice runs for the attempt on Kim Jong-nam. Siti's claims were corroborated when John's friend came forward with a photo of Siti's first meeting with James (and John), that he had taken just out of pure coincidence. Additionally, Siti was quite social media savvy and even had a few videos where James briefly appeared. 

On the day of the assassination, James was waiting with Siti while Kim Jong-nam showed up. Siti did not know who the man was -- she was instead just given a physical description. Meanwhile, she thought the other woman hired for the process – Doan –, was just a newly hired actress on the prank show she was working on. James's collaborator put baby oil on Siti's hands. Unbeknownst to her, the baby oil was laced with the VX nerve agent, one of the deadliest poisons in the world. 

Siti was shocked when she was arrested for the murder of North Korea's leader's brother. She would only find out the whole truth about the situation she was in after her release more than a year later after she was freed when the Indonesian government stepped in to put pressure on Malaysia. Now, Siti lives with her parents in her home in a small, dusty village outside Serang, Java, where her father, Hasan Asria makes a modest living selling tamarind and other spices.

The North Korean masterminds escaped – four of them flying out of Kuala Lumpur on a roundabout route to Pyongyang before Kim’s assassination was discovered, the remainder released from the country’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur and allowed to leave in a shabby hostage exchange after North Korea threatened to detain Malaysians in its capital.

'Assassins' will in release theaters and on virtual cinema on December 11, 2020.

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