Tests conducted on 40 North Korean defectors from the Punggye-ri nuclear test site found that at least nine had abnormalities indicating radiation exposure from groundwater.
According to the U.S. and South Korean governments, North Korea conducted six nuclear weapons tests at the Punggye-ri site in the mountainous North Hamgyong Province between 2006 and 2017.
The Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group on Tuesday (February 21, 2023) called on South Korea to offer radiation exposure tests to hundreds of North Korean escapees who had lived near the country's nuclear test site.
The advocacy group said South Korean records show nearly 900 people from the region around the Punggye-ri site have escaped to South Korea since the North's first nuclear test.
The group said that radioactive materials could have spread by water within 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) of the facility. It said more than a million people depend on groundwater and wells since piped water is scarce beyond the capital, Pyongyang.
"This report is significant in showing that North Korea's nuclear tests could threaten the right to life and health of not only the North Korean people but also those in South Korea and other neighboring countries," said Hubert Young-hwan Lee, the group's chief, and a co-author.