Byline: Lindsay Murdoch South-east Asia correspondent
The estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told medical workers he was attacked with a chemical spray at Kuala Lumpur airport before dying in what appears to be an assassination, according to a Malaysian official.
South Korea's spy agency said that two North Korean female agents carried out the assassination of Kim Jong-nam (pictured), the 46-year-old son of the late dictator Kim Jong-il, according to MPs briefed by the agency in Seoul.
Mr Kim became unwell after being attacked in a shopping concourse at the low-cost terminal at the airport and went to a medical clinic but died while being rushed to hospital on Monday night.
He had spoken out publicly against his family's dynastic control of the isolated state.
Malaysian police official Fadzil Ahmat told Malaysian state news agency Bernama that "a woman came from behind and covered his face with a cloth laced with a liquid".
Mr Fadzil said Kim Jong-nam had been planning to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Macau, where he had been living under Chinese protection and was quoted in 2012 as saying North Korea needed "Chinese-style economic reform".
"I have conveyed the matter to the North Korean embassy," Mr Fadzil said, adding that an autopsy was planned to seek the cause of death.
Police were checking surveillance tapes on Wednesday to try to identify the attackers.
Malaysia is one of a dwindling number of countries that has close relations with North Korea. Malaysians and North Koreans can visit each other's countries without visas.
The North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur has made no comment.
South Korea's acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn described the apparent assassination as a "brutal and inhumane" example of the nature of Kim Jong-un's regime.
In October 2012, South Korean prosecutors said a North Korean man detained as a spy had admitted involvement in a plot to stage a hit-run accident targeting Kim Jong-nam in China in 2010.
South Korean media outlets reported Kim's death in Kuala Lumpur was a planned attack by North Korean spies, with some South Korean outlets originally claiming it had been carried out using "poison needles".
One of the outlets, Chosun, citing multiple local sources, claimed two women believed to be North Korean agents fled the airport in a taxi.
Mark Tokola, vice-president of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington and a former diplomat in South Korea, said it would be surprising if Kim Jong-nam was not killed on the orders of his half-brother, given that North Korean agents have reportedly tried to assassinate him in the past.
"It seems probable that the motivation for the murder was a continuing sense of paranoia on the part of Kim Jong-un," he said.
The North Korean leader has carried out a series of purges since assuming power five years ago.