Shortly thereafter, Jong-nam critiqued his younger brother's ascension in an e-mail to a Japanese journalist, calling him a “joke to the outside world” and echoing the doubts that many in the international community harbored about the new 27-year-old despot. He ducked another attempt in 2012, the same year he sent a letter to Jong-un, begging, “Please withdraw the order to punish me and my family. The only way to escape is to choose suicide.”After Jong-nam's death at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, it initially appeared that “Kim Chol”—as he was identified on his diplomatic passport, the Korean equivalent of “John Smith”—had died of a heart attack.
He predicted, “The Kim Jong-un regime will not last long.”But Jong-un unhesitatingly displayed the ruthlessness of a natural-born tyrant: He had his mentor and main rival—his uncle—killed, reportedly used anti-aircraft guns to execute disloyal officials, and aggressively developed nuclear missiles capable of striking America. Malaysian authorities didn't have a clue about the nerve agent, nor did they know they were dealing with a person of geopolitical importance.
He had become just another overweight 45-year-old, the bald spot that he usually hid with a cap showing through his remaining hair like a bull's-eye.
As Jong-nam sauntered toward the closest Air Asia self-check-in kiosk at A. on February 13, an Indonesian woman in stylishly torn jeans and a gray sleeveless top slipped out from behind a pillar.
The resulting news stories of an immature heir seemed to humiliate Jong-il, and reports of Jong-nam's diamond-encrusted Rolex and his female companions' Louis Vuitton bags highlighted the regime's extravagance while its people suffered famines.The only thing that could have given authorities pause was the 0,000 found in his backpack, divided into four bricks of 0 bills.Experts would later suggest that he had received the money during a two-hour meeting with a CIA agent, likely in exchange for information about the regime.When he was stretchered to an ambulance, paramedics discerned a faltering heartbeat. He had lasted little more than 15 minutes after the poisoning.Earlier in his life, Jong-nam often had bodyguards watching his back, but his fall from privilege had been abrupt.The liquid was VX, a chemical weapon that the CDC calls the “most potent of all nerve agents” and that the United Nations classifies as a weapon of mass destruction.