South Korea will offer voluntary medical examination to North Korean defectors who lived near the nuclear base where the Pyongyang regime has carried out six atomic tests since 2006, to check for possible radioactive exposure, the Ministry of Unification said on Thursday. Defectors who lived near the Kilju county where the Punggye-ri underground atomic testing base is located, will undergo tests at the Korea Institute of Radiological & Medical Sciences, Efe news reported. Currently some 30 defectors from the area, especially those who left North Korea after 2006 — the year of the regime’s first nuclear test — will undergo these tests, said a Ministry spokesperson.
More than 100 North Koreans, all of whom came from the vicinity of Punggye-Ri and who left their country following the first nuclear test, are believed to be living in the South. The measure came at a time of increasing speculation over the health effects of these nuclear tests, especially after North Korea conducted three within just a year and a half. According to reports in the South Korean media, ex-residents of the region who fled the country said there could be a rising number of people whose health had been affected by the radiation.
North Korea in the last two years decided to accelerate the development of its nuclear programme and between January 2016 and September 2017 carried out three underground detonations. North Korea’s nuclear programme is aimed at developing nuclear bombs that can be fitted onto intercontinental ballistic missiles to deter South Korea — a country with which North Korea has been technically at war for almost 70 years — and its ally the US from invading its territory.