The physical health of North Korea’s soldiers does not appear to have improved much in the past two decades.
A North Korean soldier made a brazen blitz into South Korea Monday amidst a barrage of bullets in the Joint Security Area at the Demilitarized Zone. His comrades fired around 40 rounds, hitting the young 20-year-old staff sergeant five times. The man was airlifted to a South Korean medical facility for surgery, but the operation was complicated by the presence of “enormous parasites” in the man’s gut. Doctors said the roundworms found in the soldier simply aren’t seen in people in developed countries.
“We discovered parasites that are simply not found in people in this country,” Dr. Lee Kook-jong, the trauma surgeon providing care to the wounded soldier, explained, “I haven’t seen them in my 20 years as a doctor except in textbooks.”
As it turns out, South Korean medical personnel were pulling parasites like this out of North Korean soldiers just over two decades ago.
In 1996, a North Korean spy submarine ran aground during a mission to collect intelligence on South Korean naval installations. Eleven crew members committed suicide, and another thirteen were killed in firefights with South Korean troops. During the autopsies of the commandos who killed themselves, medical personnel discovered dozens of roundworms like the ones found in the defector in intensive care in South Korea in their guts, according to South Korea’s YTN new service.
The latest discoveries suggest that North Korean hygiene has not improved in 20 years.
Roundworms are common in poor developing countries, where citizens sometimes consume raw vegetables fertilized with human feces. During surgery, doctors found corn kernels in the man’s digestive tract. Some reports indicated that the corn may have been consumed raw, which would, when coupled with North Korea’s fertilizer traditions, explain the worms.
In 2014, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un personally instructed farmers to use human waste to fertilize their crops, and many believe that so-called “night soil” is the best fertilizer in North Korea, Reuters reports.
In the 1970s, the vast majority of the South Korean population had problems with roundworms, but the country has since developed to the point that parasites like this are basically nonexistent. In North Korea, where the state is more concerned with its military ambitions than the people, this may be an extremely common problem.
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