Parasites as long as 27cm found in defecting North Korean soldier

18 November 2017, 03:05

A North Korean soldier who defected to the South was infected with dozens of parasites, doctors have said.

The unarmed soldier raced across the border in a military jeep while being fired on by his own comrades on Monday.

The parasites were removed from the soldier's ruptured small intestine, including what were thought to have been roundworms as long as 27cm.

His name and rank have not been revealed but he is believed to be a staff sergeant aged in his mid-20s.

At 5'6 tall but weighing 60kg, the soldier's state is thought to be indicative of the poor health among North Korea's troops.

Lee Cook-jong, who leads the team treating the soldier, said: "I spent more than 20 years of experience as a surgeon, but I have not found parasites this big in the intestines of South Koreans."

Experts have said that, because North Korea lacks chemical fertilisers, it uses human excrement to fertilise fields, helping parasites to spread.

According to a 2014 study cited by the New York Times, South Korean doctors examined 17 female defectors from the North and found seven of them had parasitic worms.

But more pressing were the serious injuries the soldier sustained from the shots fired at him as he tried to escape Kim Jong Un's regime on Monday.

The soldier had tried to defect by driving into the Joint Security Area, a heavily guarded part of the Demilitarised Zone, where soldiers from the South and North watch each other just metres apart.

He had then run across the border as four of his colleagues used handguns and AK rifles to fire about 40 rounds at him.

He was hit five times.

After collapsing just metres from his goal, he was pulled to safety by South Korean troops and taken to hospital by a US helicopter.

He remains at the Ajou University Medical Center near Seoul, where he is on life support.

He has had two surgeries but, while doctors said his vital signs are improving and no more surgeries are scheduled, it is too early to say whether he will recover fully.