North Korean defectors had recently reported that daily rations for the 70% of North Koreans who rely on the government as their primary or only source of food have been drastically cut to starvation levels. The reason is, of course, North Korea’s nuclear program which appears to be draining the communist regime of resources. Making matters worse, each time the regime is sanctioned, the North Korean people lose, while each fresh nuclear test causes massive environmental damage.
Unfortunately for the North Korean people, stravations seems to only be the beginning of the consequences of the nuclear program. North Korean defectors living near North Korea’s nuclear test site, have long held that they are suffering from radiation poisoning and other related ills.
Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site
Kilju County is home to the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site beneath Mount Mantap, also the western border of the notorious Hwasong concentration camp. The nuclear test site has caused a host of ills for the nearby North Korean population who receive their drinking and washing water from the mountain. Scientists warn that further testing beneath the 7,2000 ft. mountain could cause it to collapse, a phenomenon known as “Tired Mountain Syndrome.”
The testing beneath the mountain has already caused three known earthquakes. A test on September 3rd caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake felt even in China, as well as aftershock for months. The earthquake is believed to have killed hundreds including more than 100 children in a nearby school at the time. Should the mountain collapse, which many scientist believe to be inevitable at this point, it would release radiation into the air, affecting the local North Korean as well as nearby Chinese populations. It would also rob the North Koreans living near the nuclear test site of their water supply, causing drought and famine for the already starving population.
Defectors from North Korea have reported that since nuclear testing began, people living near the nuclear test site have been suffering from what they call “ghost disease,” as they were unable to pinpoint the cause. The mystery sickness causes vomiting, headaches, severe birth defects, and cancer.
Defectors also claim that wildlife species they had previously relied on for food, like river fish and wild mushrooms, have all but vanished in the region. Their claims of environmental destruction near the nuclear test site actually pre-date the known beginning of the North Korean nuclear testing, perhaps implying that the North Korean regime began their testing earlier than believed. More recent defectors have also reported to South Korean newspapers that Kilju County is now a wasteland, with babies regularly born with defects. They also reported that since the sixth nuclear test on September 3rd 2017, all wells dried up and 80% of trees died.
Although few doubted these claims, they were scientifically unsubstantiated until now. South Korean scientists, who have long studied the differences between the two populations, have been able to confirm some of these claims, tentatively. The South Korean government has officially announced that defectors from North Korea living near the nuclear test site seem to be showing signs of radiation exposure.
Beginning in October, South Korean scientists have been studying 30 North Korean defectors. Of these 30, four lived in Kilju County and showed abnormalities in their chromosomes consistent with radiation exposure. The scientist problematized the findings, however, by stating that other factors, such as smoking, could be involved, and that there simply isn’t enough data on the living conditions in North Korea to be certain.
The scientists also noted that radioactivity decreases over time. These defectors fled the communist regime before Kim Jong-un’s fourth nuclear test in January 2016, meaning those still residing in Kilju County have probably been exposed to much worse contamination, especially since the massive test this September. Defectors also claim that those from the Punggye-ri nuclear test site are barred from entering Pyongyang for fear of radioactive contamination spreading.
The South Korean government has assured the population that consensual medical testing on the defectors will continue.
Biological Weapons Testing?
This announcement comes on the heels of reports that a North Korean soldier who defected was found to be hosting anthrax antibodies, raising new questions as to the horrors the North Korean people are regularly subjected to. Anthrax is a deadly bacterial infection utilized in biological warfare. The anthrax antibodies imply that the soldier was either vaccinated for anthrax, or else was otherwise exposed to the bacteria.
Even with treatment, anthrax has a mortality rate of up to 80% and can be contracted through eating contaminated meat, skin exposure, or inhaling the spores. Just last week sources reported that North Korea was planning to mount anthrax onto their ICBM, capable of reaching the US. On December 18th, the White House released a statement confirming that North Korea is pursuing chemical and biological weapons. Recently, reports from Harvard scientists have claimed that North Korea is weaponizing anthrax as well as smallpox.
North Korean defectors have also reported medical experimentations being carried out on prisoners at North Korea’s infamous prison camps. Prisoners are forced to participate in the lethal medical experiments under threats of punishment to their families.
Collapse at the Nuclear Test Site?
In October, it was reported that underground tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site had collapsed killing some 200 North Koreans. There’s no saying how much radiation was released into the earth, water supply, or atmosphere following the collapse. Scientists in South Korea and China saw the collapse as a symptom of Tired Mountain Syndrome, warning that a collapse could cause radioactive contamination to spread across the entire continent.
Pyongyang, ever committed to the propaganda game, of course, denied the reports, which first appeared in Japanese news sources. Reports out of Japan earlier this month claim the official in charge of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has been executed. The unnamed defector who bore the news was unable to disclose the reason for the execution.
As it stands, Punggye-ri is the only known nuclear test site in North Korea, however it is possible that the secretive regime has other plans in the works, especially considering the environmental situation around Mount Mantap.