The death of Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia on Feb. 13 eliminates another member of the Kim family, which has ruled North Korea with an iron fist for more than 70 years. Current Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is suspected to have ordered the murder of his estranged older half-brother, who died en route to the hospital after two women held what police believe to be a poison-soaked rag over his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

It is unclear if there was a direct motive for the 45-year-old’s assassination, as he never expressed any desire to overthrow his younger sibling. However, Kim Jong Nam’s close ties to Beijing — Pyongyang’s increasingly reluctant sponsor — may have vexed the young despot. In any case, his death sheds light on the dysfunctional and murderous dynasty whose tireless pursuit of nuclear weapons could threaten the whole world.


More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Charlie Campbell at

Read More From TIME