'Assassins': Who is Duan Thi Huong? Vietnamese woman's wish to be famous made her victim of North Korean plot

Doan was arrested shortly after Kim Jong-nam's death, but like Siti Aisyah, she had no idea what was going on


                            'Assassins': Who is Duan Thi Huong? Vietnamese woman's wish to be famous made her victim of North Korean plot
Doan Thi Huong (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. 

In the documentary, we learn in detail about how both Siti and Doan were embroiled in the international murder mystery. In a plot that seems to have come from a James Bond or Jason Bourne film, these two women were just pawns of a very elaborate plan concocted by North Korean agents. So how did Doan, a Vietnamese woman, become involved in a North Korean murder plot in Malaysia?

Doan Thi Huong was born in 1988 to a family of farmers in Vietnam. While Doan went to college and studied accountancy, like many others of her generation across the world, the post-recession world at the time of her graduation made it difficult for her to find a job. However, Doan had bigger plans -- she wanted to become an actress and therefore be famous. As such, Doan ended up working in the service industry. It was when she was working as a waitress, that a colleague named Thuy, informed her that if she was interested in working for a company that made short movies and funny videos. Thuy asked Doan to meet them at a local bar, where a man who just introduced himself as Mr. Y explained what the funny videos will be about and asked her how much she would like to be paid.

With Mr Y, Doan started going around Asia for a month, doing pranks for what she believed was a Japanese prank show. One prank that Doan was repeatedly made to do was where she was asked to walk up to a stranger from behind and close their eyes. Often, her hands would be slathered with either baby oil or lotion. Mr Y would offer Doan advice on the way she did the prank, commenting that she would need to press on the eyes harder to make it funnier for the video. On the night before the assassination, she was given a giant teddy bear and asked to practice on it.

On the day of the assassination, Doan and Siti carried out what they had been doing for a while, after being told of Kim Jong-nam's description at the airport. Baby oil was slathered on both their hands (separately). Unbeknownst to Siti and Doan, the baby oil was laced with the deadly VX nerve agent, which led to Kim Jong-nam's death an hour after they pulled the "prank."

Doan was arrested shortly after, but like Siti, she had no idea what was going on. While she was at first sentenced to death, after the Indonesian government stepped in to get Siti released, the Vietnamese government also tried to help Doan -- however, with what was seen as a less enthusiastic response, given Vietnam's close ties to North Korea. After a lengthy trial, Doan Thi Huong pleaded guilty in 2018 to a lesser charge of “causing injury” over the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong-nam, making her the only person convicted for a murder that made headlines around the world. She then returned to Vietnam.

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

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