Kim Jong Nam wasn’t exactly a household name, except perhaps in the household of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. And if, perchance, the latter Kim was worried about the former Kim, who was his half-brother, he can move on to other worries, like when his scientists will test their next missile or when his people might get enough to eat.
For those who missed the news, Kim Jong Nam died Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. He apparently was poisoned, perhaps by a woman or two, at the airport. Sudden death is not unusual in the family that has ruled North Korea for decades. Not long ago, for instance, Kim Jong Nam’s uncle, one of his half-brother’s key advisers, also died suddenly, and violently.
The Kim who was killed Tuesday once was expected to hold the post that went to his half-brother. Speculation — with North Korea, speculation vastly overwhelms actual knowledge — is that some time back he shamed their father, Kim Jong Il, who was the second in the Kim dynasty. It might be hard for Westerners to understand, but the Kim who died Tuesday is believed never to have met his half-brother, who is the third Kim ruler and is suspected of being behind the poisoning. In North Korea, potential successors to the throne are raised apart.
Though there’s no indication the poisoned Kim was a threat to his half-brother’s rule, the surviving half-brother surely knows plenty of those still exist.