The estranged half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was assassinated with a lethal toxin a few weeks ago, most likely by Pyongyang, but while he may be a victim of the North’s chemical weapons program, he is almost certainly not the first.
Kim Jong-nam was slain in an international airport in Malaysia with one of the world’s deadliest chemical weapons, a VX nerve agent. Malaysian authorities have yet to conclude that the hit was orchestrated by Pyongyang, but most signs point to the young despot Kim Jong-un. Maybe he murdered his brother, or maybe he didn’t. Either way, the use of chemicals for malicious purposes is not beyond the the North Korean regime. North Korea has reportedly been testing chemical and biological weapons on its own citizens for years.
Since the 1990s, defectors have been reporting that the North Korean regime tests chemical weapons on people with disabilities, reports NK News.
In February 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council reported that North Korea appears to have tested chemical weapons on prisoners and disabled persons.
Disabled children are said to be the primary targets.
Ji Seong-ho, a disabled North Korean who managed to escape, told The Telegraph in 2014 that the regime regards disabilities as a undesirable stain on North Korea’s image.
“The regime proclaims: ‘There are no people with disabilities under the Kims’ rule’ and ‘everyone is equal and living well,'” he explained to reporters. “While that propaganda is going on disabled children are being taken away, suffering indescribable things and dying.”
A 2013 study by the Citizens’ Alliance on North Korean Human Rights uncovered brutal reports of chemical and biological weapons testing on the disabled. A former security official spoke of a medical facility where disabled children were sent for “for medical tests, such as dissection of body parts, as well as tests of biological and chemical weapons.” An ex-police officer from North Hamgyung Province corroborated the account, citing stories from people who had escaped from the facility. The woman added that disabled children were taken from their parents, and their IDs are deleted, making it as though they never existed.
Former captain in the North Korean military Im Cheon-yong revealed that he saw the tests carried out firsthand.
“They use [disabled children] for chemical weapons experiments,” he said. “But not only children, they also use disabled adults.” He witnessed several tests involving anthrax and other chemicals in the 1980s. He said that at least 40 different chemicals have been tested on the disabled.
“For the biological and chemical warfare tests, we needed ‘objects’,” Im explained. “At first, they used the chemical agents on mice and showed us how they died. Then we watched the instructors carrying out the tests on humans to show us how a person dies. I saw it with my own eyes.”
Im introduced North Korea has at least three state-run test facilities.
“If you are born mentally or physically deficient,” he explained. “The government says your best contribution to society … is as a guinea pig for biological and chemical weapons testing.”
He revealed that some of his men reported that the regime would murder people in glass chambers in a secret facility on an island. “Poisonous gas was injected in,” Im said. “He watched doctors time how long it took for them to die.”
A former North Korean scientist revealed in 2015 that the North Korean regime practices biological warfare tactics on human subjects, the disabled in particular. He said he fled North Korea after “feeling skeptical” about his research.
These reports have yet to be confirmed with hard data; however, there is a great deal of evidence suggesting that North Korea has been testing chemical weapons on the disabled.
North Korea is believed to have amassed a significant chemical weapons stockpile.
Although it denies such accusations, North Korea is suspected to have chemical weapons program. “North Korea may possess between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of [chemical warfare] agents,” reports the Nuclear Threat Initiative, “The South Korean government assesses that North Korea is able to produce most types of chemical weapons indigenously, although it must import some precursors to produce nerve agents, which it has done in the past.”
At maximum capacity, North Korea is estimated to be capable of producing up to 12,000 tons of [chemical weapons],” NTI says, “Nerve agents such as Sarin and VX are thought be to be the focus of North Korean production.” There are concerns North Korea will use its weapons cache against South Korea or for acts of terrorism, in which it has engaged in the past.
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