I’ve always been interested in international mysteries, and I’ve covered many of them in this blog, such as the strange death of Natalio Alberto Nisman in Argentina; the authorship of the Stuxnet virus; the nature of Number Stations; the massacre in Coahuila; the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370; Cicada 3301; chronic kidney disease in Central America; lost nuclear weapons in Canada; the death of Walter Benjamin; the hijacking of the Arctic Sea; the Vela Incident; the lost island of Bermeja; the attack on a South African nuclear site; and the strange case of Witches Broom and bioterrorism in Brazil. This last blog post on Brazil received more attention than any other blog post on mystery, and certainly the most feedback from readers.
Still, few cases can match the international intrigue surrounding the assassination of Kim-Jong-nam in Malaysia. Richard Paddock and Choe Sang-Hun have a great article in today’s New York Times, titled “Kim Jong-nam’s Death: A Geopolitical Whodunit.” While the article only states that the circumstantial evidence suggests North Korea was behind the attack, I think that there can be little doubt that the current leader of North Korea ordered his brother’s murder to eliminate a possible successor. The North Korean government had already asked to claim his body, in a brazen effort to cut short the investigation.Given that unknown actors then tried to enter the morgue that holds the body, North Korea is clearly desperate to cut short the investigation. Nonetheless, the Malaysian government seems to be responding to the assassination quickly and effectively; certainly much more so than with the case of Malaysian Flight 370.
The true mystery is how the attack was carried out, and what the implications will be. How were the attackers able to handle poison on their hands without being poisoned themselves? How were these women recruited, and what did they know about their attack? What motivated Kim Jong-un to order his brother’s assassination now? Is this a sign of weakness within North Korea, or is this something that he has long worked to achieve, as the New York Time article suggests? How will China respond, given that Kim Jong-nam appeared to be under that country’s protection? What will be the global response to this crime? I believe that this case is likely to be in the news for weeks to come, if not months.
I’m about to leave for the International Studies Association conference in Baltimore. I’ll hope to see some of you there.