North Korean Leader’s Slain Half-Brother Was a CIA Informant

US determined Kim Jong Nam was 'ill-suited' to take over North Korea

Assassinated in February 2017 at a Malaysian airport, Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam has been revealed in new reports to have been a CIA informant, and had flown to the airport to meet with his CIA contact.

Once considered the heir apparent for Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Nam fell out of favor decades ago, with controversies centered around him trying to use a fake passport to sneak into Japan and visit Tokyo Disneyland. He had been living mostly in China since then.

While he was definitely a CIA asset, it was believed he had ties to several other countries’ spy agencies, including China. China never confirmed this, nor as of yet has anyone else.

How useful of an informant he would have been is less clear, however, as he was many years removed from being in North Korea, ad no noteworthy power base there, and was considered unlikely to have much information on the country’s inner workings.

Instead, the whole value of Kim Jong Nam seems to have been his being a member of the Kim family, and the intelligence efforts mostly sought information about his family.

On the other hand, being a Kim meant he was technically in the mix as a possible successor to Kim Jong Un if something were to happen to him. Even though he was already working for the CIA, however, the US ultimately concluded he was “ill-suited” to taking over North Korea.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.