South Korea plans radiation checks on defectors from North
North Korean defectors and activists tear a portrait of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un during a rally against North Korea's sixth nuclear test, in downtown in Seoul, South Korea, Sept. 08, 2017. EPA-EFE/FILE/JEON HEON-KYUN
An undated photo made available by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea, on Mar. 07, 2017, shows four projectiles during a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) at an undisclosed location, North Korea. EPA-EFE/FILE/KCNA
Two South Korean K-1 tanks are on standby in Paju, South Korea, Sept. 09, 2016, near the inter-Korean border. EPA-EFE/FILE/YNA
Seoul, Oct 12 (efe-epa).- South Korea will offer voluntary medical examination to North Korean defectors who lived near the nuclear base where the Pyongyang regime has carried out six atomic tests since 2006, to check for possible radioactive exposure, the ministry of unification told EFE Thursday.
Defectors who lived near the Kilju county where the Punggye-ri underground atomic testing base is located, will undergo tests at the Korea Institute of Radiological & Medical Sciences.
Currently some 30 defectors from the area, especially those who left North Korea after 2006 - the year of the regime's first nuclear test - will undergo these tests, said a ministry spokesperson.
More than 100 North Koreans, all of whom came from the vicinity of Punggye-Ri and who left their country following the first nuclear test, are believed to be living in the South.
The measure comes at a time of increasing speculation over the health effects of these nuclear tests, especially after North Korea conducted three in the space of just a year and a half.
According to reports in the South Korean media, ex-residents of the region who fled the country recently said there could be a rising number of people whose health has been affected by the radiation.
North Korea in the last two years has decided to accelerate the development of its nuclear program and between January 2016 and September 2017 has carried out three underground detonations.
North Korea's nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear bombs that can be fitted onto intercontinental ballistic missiles to deter South Korea - a country with which North Korea has been technically at war for almost 70 years - and its ally, the United States from invading its territory.