On 11 March we reported that Siti Aisyah, one of the two suspects arrested following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, had been dramatically released on the opening day of her murder trial (http://spyingtoday.com/2019/03/11/north-korean-assassination/). However her co-accused, Doan Thi Huong, was not released and was due to stand trial for the murder. Now a plea deal with Huong has been agreed in the Malaysian court that has provoked almost as much controversy as Aisyah’s release.
Huong has pleaded guilty to a much lesser offence of “causing injury to another by potentially deadly means” – in effect, manslaughter. In return for this, the court has sentenced her to just three years and four months imprisonment. Since she has already served more than two years in prison awaiting trial this means that she is likely to be released in just one month’s time.
This result has caused an outcry because it means that the assassination team have pretty much got away with it. The women’ story has always been that they were innocent and were tricked into making the attack by a North Korean hit team who told them that this was a simple hidden camera stunt for a television programme. But one question that was never publicly answered was how the women knew to handle the highly deadly VX nerve agent without coming into contact with it themselves? The suggestion has been that they were told they were using some kind of dye and to be careful not to get any on their hands. That is possible, but a bit thin. In support of this theory, it could be argued that if the two women had accidentally killed themselves as well as Kim Jong-nam that would have made the hit even more successful and they were just lucky.
We will probably never know for sure. But either way, the North Koreans must be well satisfied with the rather original method they employed. The “it is just a television show” trick is not entirely new – we have seen this technique used as part of intelligence service recruitment operations before, but this is the first time that it has been used for an assassination.