SEOUL: The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has been murdered in Malaysia, pleaded for his life to be spared after a failed assassination bid in 2012, lawmakers briefed by Seoul's spy chief said Wednesday.
Kim Jong-nam died after reportedly being attacked by two women believed to be North Korean agents at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Monday.
Jong-nam, the eldest son of the late former leader Kim Jong-il, was once seen as heir apparent but fell out of favour following an embarrassing botched bid in 2001 to enter Japan on a forged passport and visit Disneyland.
He has since lived in virtual exile, mainly in the Chinese territory of Macau, while Jong-un took over the isolated, nuclear-armed state after the death of his father in December 2011.
The North in 2012 tried to assassinate Jong-nam -- known to be a supporter of reform in Pyongyang -- Seoul lawmakers said following a closed-door briefing by the chief of the National Intelligence Service, Lee Byung-Ho.
"According to (Lee) ... there was one (assassination) bid in 2012, and Jong-nam in April 2012 sent a letter to Jong-un saying 'Please spare me and my family,'" Kim Byung-Kee, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters.
"It also said 'We have nowhere to go... we know that the only way to escape is suicide'," he said, adding that Jong-nam had little political support at home and posed little threat to Jong-un.
Jong-nam's family -- his former and current wives and three children -- are currently living in Beijing and Macau, said another committee member, Lee Cheol-Woo.
"They are under the protection of the Chinese authorities," he said, adding that Jong-nam had entered Malaysia on Feb 6, a week before his death.
Jong-nam's murder is the highest-profile death under the Jong-un's regime since the execution of the leader's uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in December 2013.
Jang, known to be close to China and an advocate of economic reform in the North, was charged with treason.
Jong-nam, believed to have ties with Beijing's elite, was a relatively outspoken figure, publicly criticising Pyongyang's political system.
The 45-year-old said he "personally opposed" the hereditary power transfer in his own family, during an interview with Japan's Asahi TV in 2010.
One of his sons -- Han-Sol -- also described his uncle, Jong-un, as a "dictator" in a rare interview with a Finnish TV station in 2012 while he was studying in Europe. - AFP