SEOUL – North Korean female assassins, armed with good looks and poison tools, are now the weapon of choice for a ruthless regime stalking its opponents, a high-profile defector told AFP on Thursday, after the latest apparent assassination.
Hardy male agents wielding guns or knives have been ditched in favour of their female counterparts, who strike fear into the hearts of enemies, said An Chan-Il, a North Korean defector and renowned critic of Pyongyang’s one-man rule.
“We are always mindful of young women accosting us for possible revenge killings,” An said.
His comments come days after the half-brother of the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un died in a spy novel-style assassination that Seoul said was carried out by Pyongyang agents.
South Korean intelligence chiefs believe Kim Jong-Nam had toxins sprayed in his face as he walked through Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Two women have been arrested over the murder.
An, a former North Korean commando who defected to the South in 1979, is now a leading researcher on North Korean affairs, and a harsh critic of the Stalinist state.
He is one of eight defectors who were given the highest degree of protection by the South. Following Jong-Nam’s death, that number has increased to 20, he said.
In recent years, North Korean male agents have increasingly been sidelined into intelligence gathering or building contacts with other spies, An told AFP.
“Female agents are now being trained to do the killing, using poison”, he said.
“They can easily hide mini poison injectors made of plastic, either in lipsticks, cosmetics or under their clothes,” he said, adding that such plastic tools go undetected by airport security.
‘Good looks are essential’
Agent candidates are carefully screened for their intelligence, physical attributes and family background.
“Good looks are essential but this is different from any beauty contest. A girl with a curvy body is not considered ideal to become an assassin who has to engage in physical contact with targets”, he said.
Before beginning their careers, the women go through many months of training, including strength work, combat skills, surveillance and weapons use, as well as language courses, he added.
Malaysian police probing Kim’s killing have detained a woman with an Indonesian passport and a 28-year-old woman with a Vietnamese passport, who reappeared at the same airport two days after Kim died.
An said that would be “bizarre” behaviour for a Pyongyang spy, adding that “if she is a North Korean agent, she should have either disappeared or committed suicide when she was in danger of being arrested”.
“Her behaviour is simply unthinkable in the playbook of spies”, he said.
Two North Korean agents attempted to commit suicide by biting cyanide capsules hidden in cigarettes when they were arrested in Bahrain in 1987 after blowing up a South Korean airplane.
The man died instantly but the other agent, Kim Hyon-Hee, survived. She was later brought to Seoul and confessed that the terror attack was aimed at hampering the 1988 Seoul summer Olympics.
MEANWHILE, according to the Star:
KUALA LUMPUR: In a dramatic breakthrough in investigation into the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam, police stormed a hotel here in the wee hours of the morning to arrest the second suspected assassin.
The cops got their breakthough when they arrested the second woman’s boyfriend earlier. The woman was using an Indonesian passport bearing the name Siti Aishah, from Serang in Banten province neighbouring Jakarta.
Sources said Siti Aishah may have abandoned the first suspect – the “LOL” girl – and sought refuge at the hotel in Ampang, waiting to flee the country once the “coast was clear”.
The first suspect, a woman bearing a Vietnamese passport under the name of Doan Thi Huong was arrested on Wednesday.
Police believe the two women and four men, currently being hunted by police, had done a “recce” at KLIA2 a day before the attack.
Sources said CCTV footage from that day showed six people walking around KLIA2, even being playful with each other and spraying liquid at each other while walking around the airport.
The police believe the suspects might have carefully planned the attack as they did a surveillance on the airport’s security a day earlier.
“They might have been in the middle of choosing the right secluded spot to attack him at the departure hall,” the source said, adding that the four men could be the “brains” behind the attack.
As the hunt escalated, police stormed a third floor room of a hotel in Ampang at 2am yesterday to nab the woman known as Siti Aishah.
She had been staying there by herself since fleeing the airport after the killing.
Sources said the room was unlocked when they barged in.
They recovered a stack of cash in foreign currency, including three US$100 notes.
They also seized two mobile phones – one without a SIM card and the other with a local SIM card.
Among the other items found in her room were a Louis Vuitton purse, a shawl, Ray-Ban sunglasses and Charles and Keith shoes.
The sources said her boyfriend Muhammad Farid Jalaluddin, 26, had driven her from a hotel in Bandar Baru Salak Tinggi, where she had been staying with “Thi Huong”.
“Thi Huong” was arrested on Wednesday as she was about to board a flight to Vietnam.
Farid, however, is not a prime suspect.
“He is not one of the prime suspects but he is assisting us with the investigation,” said Selangor police chief Comm Datuk Seri Abdul Samah Mat.
“Information that he gave led us to the arrest of the second suspect.”
He said “Thi Huong” and “Siti Aishah” have been remanded until Feb 21.
On Monday, a taxi driver, who had transported “Thi Huong” from KLIA2 to her hotel in Bandar Baru Salak Tinggi was detained and questioned.
Sources said police are now trying to ascertain how the two women were linked to the four men still at large and what role Farid played in the whole matter.
Two Malaysian police officers also visited the North Korean Embassy in Jalan Batai in Bukit Damansara yesterday, presumably to meet ambassador Kang Chol.
They entered the compound of the embassy at around 12.50pm and left about 15 minutes later.
They refused to comment on the visit when met by reporters.
One of them, an assistant superintendant, told Bernama: “You should ask my boss. You can maybe wait for my boss to give a statement.”
Jong-nam was at the KLIA2 waiting for a flight to Macau when two women attacked him with poison.
He died en route to the hospital in Putrajaya. He arrived in Malaysia from Macau on Feb 6.