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Kim Jong Nam, older half-brother of North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, died at Kuala Lumpur International Airport while preparing to fly to Macau. He reportedly was injected or sprayed with poison by two unidentified women, presumed to be North Korean agents. If true, it seems Kim Jong Un is tying up loose ends, eliminating a family heir who might have been used to legitimize a successor regime.

North Korea always has looked a bit like the Ottoman Empire with the plethora of “royal” children and other close relatives competing for power. Until Kim Jong Un, however, family members might lose authority and disappear from public view, but they were not murdered — a practice embraced by Ottoman sultans.

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