On Monday, a North Korean soldier was shot five times as he ran for his life across the border into South Korea. He joins a group of around 880 defectors who have managed to escape from North Korea so far this year, a total that is down from the year before as Kim Jong Un has cracked down on border security.
“Still most of [the] people escape due to poverty, but we have to pay attention that in recent days those who have stable life in North Korea even escape, while some even defect for their children’s education,” said South Korean lawmaker Park Byeong-seug, according to Newsweek.
One option for escape is a broker system that helps North Koreans cross the Mekong River into China. Defectors can pay $2,000 per person to be smuggled into safe houses, where they got onto buses and were routed for 80 hours through Vietnam. They then hike through the mountains along the border with Laos.
“We have to know the exact locations of checkpoints. We need to be able to tell them where to wait and when to cross,” said Kim Sang-hun, an activist who helps coordinate such escapes. “They can be arrested anywhere at any time, and the situation is going to be very bad for them. So to bring them to safety, we have to know the local bureaucracy and find a way to get around it.”
This comes after the Daily Caller reported that disturbing new reports indicate that North Korea’s nuclear testing appears to have spread devastation for miles. The Punggye-ri nuclear test site in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, where North Korea has conducted a total of six nuclear tests, has become a complete and total wasteland. The most recent test, which saw the North detonate a suspected staged thermonuclear bomb with an explosive yield several orders of magnitude larger than anything the regime has previously tested, only exacerbated the environmental degradation.
The devastation caused by these tests was revealed after the Research Association of Vision of North Korea interviewed 21 North Korean defectors who recently lived in Kilju. The defectors explained that trees have stopped growing in certain areas, wells have dried up, and babies are born with abnormal birth defects.
“I heard from a relative in Kilju that deformed babies were born in hospitals there,” one defector revealed.
“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 said.
“If you plant trees in the mountains there, 80 percent of them die,” a former forestry worker explained.
What do you think about this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.