SEOUL, South Korea — A North Korean soldier’s bold attempt to defect by crossing the heavily guarded border with South Korea galvanized focus this week.
But possibly far more surprising was the disclosure by surgeons struggling to save his life of what they located while repairing his intestinal wounds: dozens of parasitic worms, some as lengthy as 11 inches.
“In my 20 years as a surgeon, I have only observed one thing like this in a medical textbook,” said Dr. Lee Cook-jong, a lead surgeon.
The discovery opened a window on the dire conditions in North Korea, which includes poor hygiene and nutrition. The news shocked a lot of men and women in prosperous South Korea.
Surgeons raced to save the North Korean soldier, whose name and rank have not been released, who sustained serious bullet wounds racing across the border even though his personal troops fired on him.
“We have located dozens of completely grown parasitic worms in his damaged intestines,’’ mentioned Dr. Lee Cook-jong, a lead surgeon. “It was a critical parasitic infection.”
In the course of a news briefing this week, Dr. Lee showed photographs of worms as extended as ten or 11 inches.
Professionals in parasitic worms have been not surprised, nonetheless. They mentioned that the obtaining was consistent with the broad sense of circumstances in the isolated, impoverished North.
Defectors to the South have cited the existence of parasites and abysmal nutrition. Simply because it lacks chemical fertilizers, North Korea nonetheless relies on human excrement to fertilize its fields, helping parasites to spread, the specialists stated.
In a 2014 study, South Korean doctors checked a sample of 17 female defectors from North Korea and found seven of them infected with parasitic worms.
The North Korean soldier drove a jeep into the Joint Security Location, a single of the most heavily guarded portions of the Demilitarized Zone, on Monday. He then ran across the border to defect to the South even though fellow North Korean troops unleashed a hail of rifle and pistol shots attempting to cease him.
He collapsed about 55 yards south of the border, bleeding profusely. South Korean officers pulled him to safety, and a United States Black Hawk military helicopter rushed him to a hospital near Seoul, where he underwent a series of surgeries.
His was the most dramatic defection from the North in years, creating headlines in South Korea.
But a lot more startling news came from the doctors who were operating to clean and patch up his dietary tract, which was torn by bullets.
The soldier’s condition was particularly noteworthy because North Korean soldiers, specifically these deployed close to the border with South Korea, receive priority in meals rationing. But, in addition to the parasitic worms, medical doctors identified kernels of corn in his stomach.
South Korea itself was afflicted with widespread parasitic infections by way of the 1970s, when much more than 80 % of the population carried parasitic worms. Soon after a 9-year-old girl died in 1963 and medical doctors discovered far more than 1,000 parasitic worms in her body, the nation launched a national campaign to eradicate parasites.
Schools collected stool samples from students and distributed anti-parasitic pills. The campaign succeeded: Parasitic infections have grow to be rare in South Korea as hygiene and financial conditions have enhanced.
More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea because a famine killed more than a million individuals in the North in the 1990s. Considering that then, international relief agencies have reported widespread malnutrition and stunted development among many kids in the North.
The wounded soldier, who is believed to be in his late 20s, is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 132 pounds. In contrast, an typical high college male senior in South Korea is five feet 8 inches tall and weighs 154 pounds.
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South Korean physicians identified a North Korean defector’s intestines riddled with parasitic worms.
South Korean physicians operating on an injured North Korean soldier found parasitic worms crawling in his dietary tract, a symptom of poor hygiene and nutrition.
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