PETALING JAYA: The murdered Kim Jong-nam used to enjoy coming to Malaysia but always had bodyguards with him as he feared for his life, says a restaurant owner who knew him.
“I suspect he had a device to jam the CCTVs. Whenever I checked the cameras after he left, there would be nothing,” said Alex Hwang, a South Korean whose restaurant Jong-nam frequented.
“He feared being assassinated, hence he always travelled with bodyguards,” he said.
Hwang said Jong-nam would stay at five-star hotels whenever he was in town.
“Sometimes, he would bring his wife here,” he said, adding that Jong-nam had also brought his Singaporean girlfriend to Malaysia.
Hwang, who is the National Unification Advisory Council (Malaysia) chairman and former president of the Korean Association in Malaysia, said: “There are so many restaurants in town but he preferred Starhill Gallery because of the security there.”
He said Jong-nam would often travel to Singapore, Malaysia and Macau. “His family lives in Macau. His son is back in Macau from Europe.”
Hwang believed that Jong-nam was here this time because he had some business or associates here in Malaysia who could help him financially.
“He used to get financial aid from the North Korean embassy but not after his father died and he went into exile.
“He may have other financial sources here.
“I had tried persuading him to visit South Korea but he declined,” he said.
Hwang described the assassination of Jong-nam as an act of terror.
“It was done in a public place. They came to Malaysia to do such a terrible thing and we are now living in fear,” he said.
Another source said Jong-nam regularly visited between 2010 and 2013 when his cousin, Jang Yong-chol, was North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia.
“Then, Jong-nam would stay at a double-storey house at Bukit Damansara.
“He would stay here for between 10 and 15 days on each trip. Sometimes with his family,” said the source.
The source said Jong-nam was fond of the neighbourhood pubs in the Bukit Damansara commercial centre and the nightlife, party and club scene at Changkat Bukit Bintang.
Jong-nam stopped coming to Malaysia for a while after Yong-chol was recalled to Pyongyang in December 2013 and executed.
Yong-chol was the nephew of Jang Song-thaek, Jong-nam’s uncle.
Song-thaek and his entire family were executed on the orders of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The source said Jong-nam did not return to Malaysia for about a year but was sighted again in 2015 and 2016.
The source also said Jong-nam was involved in the IT business, distributing hardware and software to businesses in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
“He was aware that there would be attempts on his life and had on few occasions travelled to Kuala Lumpur with a bodyguard,” said the source.