Even before the report of North Korea’s nuclear test site having allegedly collapsed in September, the site was a health catastrophe for residents of the region, according to new reports in a South Korean newspaper.
North Korea has conducted all of its underground nuclear tests at the Punngye-ri nuclear test site. After the last test, reports emerged that underground tunnel disasters had led to the deaths of 200 people.
However, there have also been fears that the effects of the tests would lead to escaping radiation.
The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo recently reported on the findings of the Research Association of Vision of North Korea, which interviewed 21 North Korean defectors who had lived in Kilju, a town near the test site.
“I heard from a relative in Kilju that deformed babies were born in hospitals there,” one defector said.
“I personally saw corpses floating down the river with their limbs severed,” another defector claimed, adding that local residents were also ordered to dig “deep holes for those tests.”
One of the main reasons for the impact of radiation on the region was that drinking water in the town came from Mount Mantap. Tests were conducted underneath the mountain.
Suh Kyun-ryul, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University, said, “Due to the collapsed ground layer, fissures must have formed underneath, leading to contamination of the underground layer and water supply.”
The result, it is suggested, is that nothing grows.
“If you plant trees in the mountains there, 80 percent of them die. You can blame it on poor planting, but the number of trees that die is higher than in other mountains,” a defector said.
Others said trout and pine mushrooms just “disappeared” after the first nuclear test in 2006. Yet, most agreed that the situation was getting worse.
“I spoke on the phone with family members I left behind there and they told me that all of the underground wells dried up after the sixth nuclear test,” one person admitted.
Residents also said that they had no protection against any radiation that leaked from underground.
One defector who left North Korea in 2010 said that during the first two nuclear tests, only soldiers and their family members were evacuated.
“During the first nuclear test and second one, only family members of soldiers were evacuated to underground shafts. Ordinary people were completely unaware of the tests,” one defector said.
However, many of the defectors said that residents of the region are being silenced by the North Korean government.
“Kilju locals who made appointments in a large hospital in Pyongyang were not allowed to enter the capital after the sixth nuclear test,” one defector said.
Another stated that “people who boarded trains to the border with samples of soil, water and leaves from Kilju County were arrested and sent to prison camps.” (For more from the author of “North Korean Defectors: Country’s Nuclear Test Site Causing ‘Deformed Babies'” please click HERE)