(CBSN) — The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has died in Malaysia, police on the island nation confirm to CBS News, amid South Korea reports that he was murdered.
South Korean news agency Yonhap, along with other outlets in the country, report Tuesday Kim Jong-Nam had been assassinated. There were few details available, and the media all cited unnamed South Korean officials in their accounts.
Speaking to CBS News, Malaysian police would only say that the cause of death for the 46-year-old was currently listed as “sudden death.”
Kim Jong Un has had a number of senior North Korean officials executed for vague crimes of disloyalty, from education and defense ministers to intelligence chiefs, as he seeks to consolidate his power in the isolated nuclear kingdom.
In 2013, North Korea said it had executed Kim’s uncle, calling the leader’s former mentor a traitor who tried to seize power and overthrow the state. The announcement came only days after Jang Song Thaek — long considered the country’s No. 2 power — was removed from all his posts because of a long list of allegations, including corruption, drug use, gambling and womanizing.
More than a decade ago, Kim Jong-Nam, the casino-loving eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, spoke out against his little brother Kim Jong Un inheriting power in the country.
Analysts said at the time, toward the end of 2010, that Kim Jong Nam was prone to spending so much time outside his native land that his opinion carried little weight within the Kim dynasty.
The oldest of three brothers who were then in the running to take over secretive North Korea, Kim Jong-Nam was the closest thing the country had to a playboy.
Unlike many of his countrymen back home who lack the resources and connections to travel overseas, Kim always traveled freely and spent much of his time in China or the country’s special autonomous region of Macau — the center of Asian gambling with its Las Vegas-style casinos.
He sported the family pot belly and favored newsboy caps and an unshaven face, while frequenting five-star hotels and expensive restaurants.