The North Korean soldier who made a run for the border to the South and was shot multiple times is currently in the hospital being treated for his injuries. He may have survived the ordeal but attending doctors now have found that the young soldier is a host to a variety of parasites. This could provide an understanding of the kind of health and nutrition practices North Koreans have every day.
The 24-year-old North Korean soldier, only identified as Oh, was reportedly shot at least five times, the video of which – partially recorded on Nov. 13 – was released by the United Nations Command. He has since been through rounds of surgery at Ajou University hospital to extract bullets, including one that has lodged in his abdominal wall. Upon removing this bullet, the doctors have found an “enormous number” of parasitic worms – the largest of which measured 27 centimeters (11 inches).
Lead surgeon Lee Cook-jong told Reuters how he’s never seen something like it in over 20 years of being a surgeon. He said Oh’s case is one that’s seen only in a textbook. Besides parasites, Oh was also found to have hepatitis B and tuberculosis.
Lee added that the doctors struggled with treating the North Korean defector’s injuries due to the number of the parasites that were “invading and eating into wounded areas,” Korea Biomedical Review reported. It took three and a half hours for the doctors to complete the surgery, the report stated.
Not only that, the team also discovered worms never been seen among Koreans, Lee said. The parasites extracted included roundworms, which the doctors believe are already present even before the North Korean soldier got shot. Dankook University Medical School’s Professor Seo Min confirmed that other defectors also had many parasites when they were examined.
“The parasite infection problem seems to be serious even if it does not represent the entire North Korean population.”
The defectors may have contracted roundworms from eating vegetables that have been grown with human manure as fertilizers. Although there are other ways to fertilize the plants that are safer, doctors believe that North Koreans are not using them.
Oh, who joined the North Korean military when he was 17, continues to recover at the hospital and doctors say he will be fine. The soldier may have survived the physical injuries but he’s now haunted by fears of being sent back to North Korea. But Lee already assured him that he’s not going anywhere, the New York Post reported.
The doctors recalled that the young man vowed he would “never go back to the military system again.” On the other hand, South Korean military officials want to ask more questions from Oh but Lee said that the patient should be allowed to recover fully first.
[Featured Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]