Our Man in Malaysia: The Life and Actions of a North Korean Agent

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The story of a Malaysia-based North Korean agent who conspired with Chinese nationals to ship goods to Pyongyang.

In 2017, a North Korean national named Ri Jong Chol was arrested in Malaysia in connection to the assassination at Kuala Lumpur airport of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean ruler’s half-brother and presumed chief rival. Ri was soon released without charge and subsequently deported.

Yet that’s hardly the end of the story. For data extracted from Ri’s electronic devices by the Malaysian authorities shows how he and his colleagues in a trading company subordinated to the North Korean military conspired with Chinese nationals to pay for goods and arrange for them to be shipped to North Korea, in contravention of United Nations-imposed sanctions.

Our event will look at the activities of Ri and the methods he and his China-based co-conspirators used to evade sanctions, as well as the implications this case has on our understanding of North Korea’s broader financial and sanctions-evasion activities.


Darya Dolzikova, Research Fellow, RUSI

Gary Somerville, Research Analyst, RUSI

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