North Korea has conducted at least six underground nuclear weapons tests, almost all of which have taken place at its Punggye-ri site in the northeast. A lot has been said about the geological effects of the tests – specifically, on how they’re dangerously weakening the landscape. However, comparatively little has been written about the detrimental effects on human health.
The dangers of radioactive fallout and contamination are well known, but any concrete information in this case is difficult to verify. All that reporters have to rely on are the testimonies of defectors, and newly published accounts in the Chosun Ilbo paint a grim picture of a nuclear “wasteland” around the test site.
“I heard from a relative in Kilju that deformed babies were born in hospitals there,” one defector who used to live in the province reportedly said. Another spoke of “corpses floating down the river with their limbs severed.”
It seems that only high-ranking officials and their families in the region are informed when a nuclear test is about to take place. Despite the fact that plenty of locals are forced to dig out the nuclear test tunnels themselves – one of which collapsed in on itself recently, killing hundreds – they aren’t warned when a detonation is about to occur.
The ecosystem in the region isn’t faring much better. “If you plant trees in the mountains there, 80 percent of them die,” another defector claimed.
“You can blame it on poor planting, but the number of trees that die is higher than in other mountains.” Other species of plants and fungi appear to be disappearing without a trace.
Drinking water is also being heavily contaminated. The repeated destruction of the surrounding landscape has not just irradiated the water supply, but it’s also creating deep chasms that are draining much of it into the bowels of the Earth.
“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 defector explained.
It’s also been reported that those seeking medical help in the nation’s capital are being forbidden ever since the most recent nuclear test took place. Those that seek to spread the news of the effects of the tests attempt to take soil and plant samples outside of the province, but they’re often caught and sent to prison camps.
Again, it’s very difficult to definitively confirm these details, but it’s certain that the province has become heavily contaminated by the regime’s increasingly powerful nuclear tests. It’s only set to become increasingly hellish as time ticks on, and more freakish scars adorn the landscape.