'Assassins' highlights strange story of murder of Kim Jong Un's half-brother

Film focuses on two women who were charged with poisoning Kim by smearing his face with the banned chemical weapon VX

REUTERS January 29, 2021


Nearly four years after the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, a new documentary seeks to shed light on the brazen airport murder and the involvement of the two young women accused of carrying it out.

US director Ryan White spent 2-1/2 years investigating the case for Assassins, which will be released in cinemas and digitally on-demand on Friday.

The film focuses on the two women - Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong - who were charged with poisoning Kim by smearing his face with the banned chemical weapon VX and had at one point faced a mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.

Defense lawyers maintained they were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents. The women said they thought they were part of a reality prank show and did not know they were poisoning Kim.

Siti was freed in March 2019 after a Malaysian court dropped charges against her. Prosecutors dropped a murder charge against Huong, who pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing harm using dangerous means, and she went free the following May.

South Korean and US officials have said the North Korean regime had ordered the assassination of Kim, who had criticised his family’s dynastic rule. Pyongyang has denied the allegation.

For Assassins, White’s extensive research included travel to Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. But he said hearing from the women themselves was the most crucial factor in finding the reality behind the headlines.

Doan and Aisyah were shown the documentary earlier this week, and while the film got their blessing, Doan expressed regret over some scenes, White said.

“Her first reaction ... was, ‘I wish I hadn’t smiled so much,’” he said, referring to scenes showing the return to Vietnam of Doan, who White said became a target for vitriol on social media and has “retreated into her shell a lot more.”

“They’re both lovely and thankfully survived this experience, but I think their lives will never be the same, unfortunately,” he said.

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