A hearse from the Health Ministry entering the Kuala Lumpur Hospital Forensic Department premises to collect Kim Jong-nam’s body yesterday. PIC BY SUPIAN AHMAD

KUALA LUMPUR: THE body of Kim Jong-nam has been embalmed.

The Malaysian authorities decided to preserve the body of the 45 year old to prevent further decomposition, the New Straits Times’ Special Probes team learnt.

Jong-nam’s remains were brought to Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) on Feb 15. He died in an ambulance while being taken to Putrajaya Hospital following a chemical attack at klia2 on the morning of Feb 13.

Sunday night would be the first time from that day that his body had been taken out from the general hospital.

His body was driven out from the hospital at about 7.30pm. By 10.30pm, it was back at the mortuary for safekeeping.

The mission to get him embalmed would match a scene from a thriller, somewhat involving subterfuge.

This, according to a source with knowledge of the operation, was to shake off the legion of media personnel staking out outside the mortuary that would readily tail the HKL hearse carrying Jong-nam’s body to the secret destination.

Those handling the operation accomplished their mission to embalm Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at a private facility offering the service.

It is understood that this was a better option, considering the other body-preservation methods for cadavers, offered by government agencies, would involve soaking the body in formaldehyde.

The team learnt that the procedure would have cost anything in the region of RM20,000. It could not be established who settled the bill.

Bodies stored in morgues are often kept at between 2°C and 4°C. While the morgues are usually used to keep bodies for up to several weeks, they do not prevent decomposition.

Meanwhile, unclaimed and identified bodies handled by forensics are usually kept at between -50°C and -10°C. At these temperatures, the bodies are completely frozen and decomposition is very much reduced.

In the case of Jong-nam’s body, the NST learnt that those handling it in the course of investigation were forced to thaw and rethaw the body.

It is also understood that the last time the body was brought to the autopsy table, it had already displayed signs of decomposition.

Meanwhile, an expert told the team that despite having been embalmed, there would be no problems should there ever be a need for a second post-mortem to be carried out.

The team made a visit to the facility and spoke to its chief operating officer. He refused to commit to an answer if the process took place there but admitted that the National Institute of Forensic Medicine had in the past few days contacted them to get their opinion on the best available methods to preserve the body.

They said there would usually be two ways of preserving a cadaver — through “arterial embalming” and “open-body embalming”.

“Arterial embalming doesn’t require us to cut open the body... in Malaysia, it normally takes about 10 to 15 days (before the body starts to decompose), but we also have to periodically check on the body.

“Our job is about cosmetics... We have to make sure that the body, including the face, looks presentable,” he said.

1,411 reads