Thousands of North Koreans and people in South Korea, Japan and China may have been exposed to radioactive material spread through groundwater from an underground nuclear test site, a Seoul-based human rights group said in a report on Tuesday.
According to the US and South Korean governments, North Korea secretly conducted six nuclear weapons tests between 2006 and 2017 at the Punggye-ri site in mountainous North Hamgyong province.
The study by the Transitional Justice Working Group said radioactive material could spread to eight cities and counties near the site, where more than 1 million North Koreans live, and where groundwater is used in everyday life, including drinking. is done.
It also said that neighboring South Korea, China and Japan may be at risk, partly because of smuggled agricultural and fishery products from the North.
Formed in 2014, the group worked with nuclear and medical experts and defectors and used open source intelligence and publicly available government and UN reports for the study, which was commissioned by a US-funded non-profit corporation, the National was supported by the Endowment for Democracy. Congress.
The group’s Hubert Young-hwan Lee said, “This report is important in showing that North Korea’s nuclear tests not only threaten the right to life and health of North Koreans, but also those in South Korea and other neighboring countries.” are too.” Principal and one co-author.
Telephone calls by Reuters to North Korea’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York remained unanswered.
In 2015, South Korea’s Food Safety Agency detected nine times the standard level of radioactive cesium isotopes in imported hedgehog mushrooms that were sold as Chinese produce, although their actual origin was North Korea.
China and Japan have increased radiation monitoring and expressed concern over potential exposure after the North’s previous nuclear tests but have not openly reported about contaminated food.
Many outside experts have expressed concern over potential health risks from the contaminated water, but North Korea has dismissed such concerns, saying there have been no leaks of harmful materials after previous nuclear tests, without providing evidence. Did it
When North Korea invited foreign journalists to watch the destruction of some tunnels at a nuclear test site in 2018, it confiscated their radiation detectors.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, stopped testing defectors for radiation exposure amid a deterioration in cross-border relations since 2018.
But, at least nine of 40 convicts from areas near Punggye-ri that were tested for radiation in 2017 and 2018 showed abnormalities. The ministry said, however, that it could not establish a direct link with the nuclear site.
The report states that more than 880 North Koreans have fled those areas since 2006.
Rights groups urged the resumption of testing and an international investigation into the radiation risks to the communities around Punggye-ri.
The Unification Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Seoul and Washington have said that Pyongyang is preparing for a seventh nuclear test.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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