A North Korean soldier defected to South Korea through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from the Joint Security Area near Panmunjom village. After he managed to cross the border, South Korean soldiers admitted him to a nearby hospital to treat his injuries from shots fired by the North Korean soldiers. He was shot several times and the doctor there was stunned to see the digestive and intestinal tract of the former-North Korean soldier was heavily infested by parasites and worms.

North Korean soldiers defecting to South Korea isn’t anything odd, considering since over 30,000 defectors have moved from North to South since 1955. But the manner in which he defected seemed odd considering the Joint Security Area is one of the most heavily guarded areas. In order to stop him from crossing the border, fellow soldiers fired at the defector injuring him in his buttocks, armpits, back shoulder and knees.

But when the defector was taken to the hospital, doctors were surprised to find the level of parasitic infestation in his body. The soldier endured a series of surgeries as he continued to fight for his life. The doctor treating him, Lee Cook-jong, reported to Reuters that he found flesh-colored parasites ranging up to 10.6 inches in length.

In my over 20 year-long careers as a surgeon, I have only seen something like this in a textbook”, Lee declared. He further mentioned, “We are struggling with treatment as we found a large number of parasites in the soldier’s stomach, invading and eating into the wounded areas.

 There have been other such cases as well, where North Korean defectors have been found riddled with roundworms and other parasites.

The doctors found parasites along with corn kernels in his stomach indicating his diet. North Korea has been currently going through drought and famine which pushed them to import almost 40,000 tonnes of corn from China between January to September this year.

The main reason for the infestation has been thought to be the use of “human feces” or “night soil” as a fertilizer. Since DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) no longer produces chemical fertilizers, it has encouraged its farmers to use “night soil”. This adds to the hygiene problem that the population already faces.

Though it might be a generalization to assume the condition of the entire population based upon a few cases, considering the designation of the soldier and his elite posting, it can be deduced that he should have had access to better nutrition than the average citizen. With military service being mandatory in DPRK, the question regarding the food habits and living conditions that citizens there are subject to remains. 

Source: iflscience, apnews, reuters