• 07:06
  • 12.08.2020
Starving, suffering in Kim’s army
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Starving, suffering in Kim’s army

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It has the world’s fourth largest army and its troops are reportedly filled with unbridled loyalty to their leader.

However life inside North Korea’s army is miserable and troops suffer from parasites, disease and miserably low morale, a former Korean People’s Army defector has revealed.

Kim Eun-jung, who escaped to South Korea via China after serving 10 years as a junior officer, told The Times life was miserable for those who served in the PLA.
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Ms Kim, a defector in her early 30s, said the boots the troops were given were filled with holes which left them susceptible to frostbite.

“Everyone was sick in the army, all the time,” she said.

“They took away what should have been the 10 most beautiful years of my life.”
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Food is also scarce and of a low quality.

Among the more horrifying revelations, Ms Kim — who was given a pseudonym — said she and her comrades were forced to work in the fields twice a year.

She told the Times fertiliser was in short supply so troops collected human excrement and used that instead, which meant parasites could be easily spread.
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Ms Kim’s account comes almost a month after the dramatic defection of North Korean soldier Oh Chung-sung who was shot five times as he dashed across the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone (DMZ).

The 24-year-old, who continues to recover from his injuries in Seoul, was saved by quick-thinking surgeons.

South Korean surgeon Lee Cook-Jong told CNN doctors faced a battle to save him, and discovered the 24-year-old’s body was filled with tapeworms, some of which were up to 27cm long.
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“Everything was stained with blood, but the parasite was basically a really white colour and this thick, big, long and very, very hard, this kind of thing was getting out from his bowel system,” Dr Lee said.

The defector is also battling tuberculosis and hepatitis B and is traumatised following his escape.

Mr Oh will also have scars and lifelong complications after his colon was shredded by a bullet and had to be repaired in seven places.
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Mr Oh’s escape across the DMZ and Joint Security Area (JSA) is rare but not unheard of.

In June, a North Korean soldier surrendered to a soldier from the South while two others defected via the DMZ in September 2016 and in June 2015.
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Two PLA soldiers also defected in 2012, according to the BBC.

The JSA is the only part of the DMZ where soldiers from each side face each other.

The defections are a major embarrassment for the Kim regime which expects fervent loyalty from its soldiers.
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Meanwhile, figures released by South Korea’s Ministry of Unification show around 70 per cent of the 31,000 defectors who have escaped the secretive regime are women.

Defectors typically employ smugglers to help them cross the border with China, and often get to South Korea via Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Sokeel Park, the Seoul-based director of research and strategy for Liberty in North Korea told USA Today one of the reasons behind the high number of women defectors could be due to the demand for brides.
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“Historically, the largest influence in female migration from North Korea to China has been sex trafficking and marriages,” Mr Park said.

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The number of defectors attempting to escape has fallen since Kim Jong-un’s government cracked down on those heading to China without permission.

The 2017 Human Rights Watch (HRW) World Report revealed Kim’s regime has built barbed-wire fences on its northern border.

The regime has cracked down on North Koreans found with Chinese mobile phones who use the devices to communicate with those in the South.
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The North has also increased efforts to block Chinese mobile phone services near the border.

Along with China, North Korea has also increased border patrols and increasingly targeting broker networks, which means there are less people willing to take escapees across the border.

Those women who do escape into China are often forced into marriages with Chinese men lacking any ID or access to government services, or into the sex trade.
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Former North Korean security officials told HRW that North Koreans who were caught escaping faced dire consequences including interrogation, torture, sexual abuse and forced labour.

“North Koreans in exile with contacts inside the country told Human Rights Watch that people caught trying to reach South Korea are treated as enemies of the state and sent to political prison camps,” HRW revealed.

“They face deplorable conditions, sexual coercion and abuse, beatings and torture by guards, and forced labour in dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions.”
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According to HRW, 41 North Koreans were apprehended in China in July and August this year — compared with 51 people in the 12 months previously.

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