Defectors from N. Korean nuke test site region show no significant radiation exposure

Posted on : 2024-03-09 09:35 KST Modified on : 2024-03-09 09:35 KST
The Ministry of Unification in South Korea announced that 80 defectors who hailed from areas in proximity to the North’s nuclear test site did not show signs of radiation exposure that could indicate nuclear testing
North Korea detonated its nuclear test site in Punggye, a rural village or “ri” in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, on May 25, 2018. (pool photo)
North Korea detonated its nuclear test site in Punggye, a rural village or “ri” in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, on May 25, 2018. (pool photo)

The South Korean Ministry of Unification revealed on Thursday that there was “no significant level of radioactive contamination” among 80 defectors who had resided in eight cities and counties surrounding North Korea’s nuclear test site.

A test was carried out to determine the radiation exposure and radioactive contamination levels of those who hailed from areas including Kilju County in North Hamgyong Province, home of the Punggye test site. 
This confirms that there have been no cases of radiation exposure or radioactive contamination from any nuclear tests carried out by the North.
The ministry, along with the Korea Hana Foundation, which aids North Korean defectors, released a report on the results of a radiation exposure and radioactive contamination level test on North Korean defectors conducted by the Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences National Radiation Emergency Medical Center.
The test subjects were 80 North Korean defectors who had resided in six counties — Kilju, Hwadae, Myonggan, Myongchon, Orang, and Paekam — and two cities (Kimchaek and Tanchon), near the nuclear test site since North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006.
After conducting radioactive contamination tests and radiation exposure tests (biological dosimetry) on the 80 North Koreans, KIRMAS revealed that “none of the test subjects showed meaningful results.”
While some examinees demonstrated figures higher than the minimum detection threshold in their radiation exposure tests, such numbers were attributed to “variables that occurred after their defection or by exposure to medical radiation,” which are “unlikely to be related with the levels of radiation exposure before their defections.”
An official from KIRAMS explained, “The results of the chromosome aberration analysis showed figures that could have been produced by medical radiation exposure, so we cannot conclude that the chromosome aberrations happened due to exposures from nuclear tests.”
Public controversy over whether North Koreans with a history of living in areas near the country’s nuclear test site have been exposed to radiation has been ongoing since November 2016, when the South and North Development Institute, an organization concerned with North Korea issues and defectors, published the results of five North Korean defector’s radiation exposure tests.
Such controversy has spread to the National Assembly and the Ministry of Unification has previously conducted two closed-door radiation exposure tests of defectors in 2017 and 2018.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

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