N. Korea’s Olympics delegation to be led by a wanted mass murderer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

North Korea’s new Olympics delegation to be led by man blamed for deadly ship attack

Pyeongchang, South Korea (CNN)North Korea is sending another high-level delegation to South Korea for the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony this Sunday, led by a man widely believed to have masterminded the sinking of a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 sailors.

Kim Yong Chol, Vice Chairman of the Party Central Committee, will lead the delegation that’s due to arrive by land on the Gyeongui rail line hours before the ceremony starts, according to a statement Thursday from the South’s Ministry of Unification.

A giant floating crane lifts the stern of the 1,200-tonne sunken Cheonan to place it on a barge, before returning it to South Korea, April 15, 2010.

Kim is the former chief of the North’s Reconnaissance Bureau, a top military intelligence body blamed by Seoul for a torpedo attack that sunk the South Korean warship Cheonan, in 2010.
The choice of Kim to lead the delegation is likely to be interpreted as an intentional provocation. Kim is named on the list of individuals sanctioned by both the US and South Korea. The US sanctions include provisions intended to restrict movement, though it is not clear whether Kim’s trip to the South is in breach of travel-specific sanctions.
The announcement poses a renewed diplomatic challenge for hosts South Korea, who in addition to navigating issues relating to sanctions, will again need to accommodate both the North Korean and US delegations, without offending either party.

Pence, Kim Jong Un's sister ignore each other

  
The Opening Ceremony saw US Vice President Mike Pence positioned just a few seats away from members of the North’s high-level delegation, including Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The US delegation during Sunday’s Closing Ceremony will be led by Ivanka Trump, the first daughter and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, raising the prospect of a chance encounter between a member of the Trump family and members of the North’s delegation.
A more formalized meeting between the two sides appears unlikely, however, following comments from the South Korean government ruling out their involvement in such a possibility.
“The Blue House will not facilitate a meeting between Ivanka and North Korea’s high-level delegation,” said a government spokesman, referring to the official name of the executive office of the South Korean president.
When asked whether both Trump and North Korean delegates would be invited to a VIP reception before the Closing Ceremony, the spokesman declined to comment, saying he doesn’t yet know how it will pan out.

Full delegation

Other members of the North’s delegation include Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the “Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country” and six support staff.
Ri was among the delegation sent to South Korea in January for talks which led to North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics.
“We expect the high-level delegation’s participation in the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to help advance the process of settling peace on the Korean Peninsula including the improvement of inter-Korean relations and denuclearization,” the South Korean statement said.
It added that practical matters, including the delegation’s itinerary, would be discussed through an exchange of documents at Panmunjeom, known as the “truce village,” in the Joint Security Area between North and South Korea.

South Korean sailors salute images of their fallen comrades during a Cheonan memorial service in Seoul, April 25, 2010.

Cheonan Memorial

A total of 104 personnel were aboard the Cheonan when it sunk while conducting a normal mission in the vicinity of Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, in March 2010. Though rescue efforts continued for several days and involved more than 20 vessels, only 58 men were rescued from the ship.
According to an official South Korean report, based on an investigation conducted by South Korean, US, Swedish, British and Australian officials, the ship was attacked by a North Korean torpedo, fired from a small submarine.
North Korea has never claimed responsibility and refuses to accept the findings of the official report.
During his recent trip to South Korea, Vice President Pence visited the Cheonan Memorial which honors the 46 South Korean sailors killed in the attack.
Pence toured a museum featuring the sailors’ stories and examined remains of the Korean warship.
Speaking outside the memorial, Pence said the objective of the visit was to show that the US “stand(s) with our allies.”

North Korean Soldier Who Defected This Week Is Filled With Parasitic Worms

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

SEOUL, South Korea — A North Korean soldier’s bold attempt to defect by crossing the heavily guarded border with South Korea galvanized attention this week.

But perhaps more surprising was the disclosure by surgeons struggling to save his life of what they found while repairing his intestinal wounds: dozens of parasitic worms, some as long as 11 inches.

“In my 20 years as a surgeon, I have only seen something like this in a medical textbook,” said Dr. Lee Cook-jong, a lead surgeon.

The discovery opened a window on the dire conditions in North Korea, including poor hygiene and nutrition. The news shocked many people in prosperous South Korea.

Surgeons raced to save the North Korean soldier, whose name and rank have not been released, who sustained serious bullet wounds racing across the border while his own troops fired on him.

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“We have found dozens of fully grown parasitic worms in his damaged intestines,’’ said Dr. Lee Cook-jong, a lead surgeon. “It was a serious parasitic infection.”

During a news briefing this week, Dr. Lee showed photographs of worms as long as 10 or 11 inches.

Experts in parasitic worms were not surprised, however. They said that the finding was consistent with the broad sense of conditions in the isolated, impoverished North.

Defectors to the South have cited the existence of parasites and abysmal nutrition. Because it lacks chemical fertilizers, North Korea still relies on human excrement to fertilize its fields, helping parasites to spread, the experts said.

In a 2014 study, South Korean doctors checked a sample of 17 female defectors from North Korea and found seven of them infected with parasitic worms.

The North Korean soldier drove a jeep into the Joint Security Area, one of the most heavily guarded portions of the Demilitarized Zone, on Monday. He then ran across the border to defect to the South while fellow North Korean troops unleashed a hail of rifle and pistol shots trying to stop him.

He collapsed about 55 yards south of the border, bleeding profusely. South Korean officers pulled him to safety, and a United States Black Hawk military helicopter rushed him to a hospital near Seoul, where he underwent a series of surgeries.

His was the most dramatic defection from the North in years, making headlines in South Korea.

But more startling news came from the doctors who were working to clean and patch up his dietary tract, which was torn by bullets.

The soldier’s condition was particularly noteworthy because North Korean soldiers, especially those deployed near the border with South Korea, receive priority in food rationing. Yet, in addition to the parasitic worms, doctors found kernels of corn in his stomach.

South Korea itself was afflicted with widespread parasitic infections through the 1970s, when more than 80 percent of the population carried parasitic worms. After a 9-year-old girl died in 1963 and doctors found more than 1,000 parasitic worms in her body, the country launched a national campaign to eradicate parasites.

Schools collected stool samples from students and distributed anti-parasitic pills. The campaign succeeded: Parasitic infections have become rare in South Korea as hygiene and economic conditions have improved.

More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since a famine killed more than a million people in the North in the 1990s. Since then, international relief agencies have reported widespread malnutrition and stunted growth among many children in the North.

The wounded soldier, who is believed to be in his late 20s, is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 132 pounds. In contrast, an average high school male senior in South Korea is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 154 pounds.