The surrounding land near North Korea’s nuclear test site is now a “wasteland” where deformed babies are born and 80 percent of vegetation dies as a result of nuclear radiation, more than a dozen North Korean defectors told South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
The Research Association of Vision of North Korea interviewed 21 North Korean defectors who previously lived in Kilju, a town located near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where six underground nuclear tests have been conducted.
The South Korean newspaper reported that residents were in fear for their lives due to the radiation contamination.
“I heard from a relative in Kilju that deformed babies were born in hospitals there,” a defector told the Research Association of Vision of North Korea.
“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,” another defector said.
One defector who said he fled in 2010 after living through two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 said North Korean citizens were not informed of the tests in advance.
“During the first nuclear test (October of 2006) and second one (May of 2009), only family members of soldiers were evacuated to underground shafts. Ordinary people were completely unaware of the tests,” the defector said.
A professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University said the water has been contaminated.
“Due to the collapsed ground layer, fissures must have formed underneath, leading to contamination of the underground layer and water supply,” Suh Kyun-ryul said.
“Prior to nuclear tests, around two tests involving only detonators take place, and locals are mobilized to dig deep holes for those tests,” one defector said. “I personally saw corpses floating down the river with their limbs severed.”
Defectors said 80 percent of the trees that are planted on the mountain die off, and trout and pine mushrooms have completely died off since the first nuclear test in 2006.
“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.
The defectors said that local residents are forbidden from going to Pyongyang and visiting hospitals or making claims of contamination.
“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 claimed.
“People who boarded trains to the border with samples of soil, water and leaves from Kilju County were arrested and sent to prison camps,” another defector said.
More than 200 North Koreans have reportedly been killed following a tunnel collapse at a North Korean nuclear test facility, according to a report.
Japan’s TV Asahi initially reported that 100 people were trapped and killed in the Oct. 10 tunnel collapse, and about 100 others were killed during a rescue mission, South Korean Yonhap News Agency reported.
The accident was due to “weakening of the surrounding grounds” following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test earlier this year, on Sept. 3, TV Asahi reported.