North Korean defector had 'enormous amount' of parasitic worms in body

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"We have also discovered a parasite never seen in Koreans before", Lee said.

North Korea says it needs to develop its weapons to protect itself from what it sees as USA aggression.

The defector crossed the demilitarised zone earlier this week, but was shot several times by North Korean border guards as he ran across the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom to the South Korean side.

South Korean doctor Lee Cook-Jong, who carried out surgery on gunshot wounds sustained by a North Korean soldier, speaks about the condition of the soldier during a briefing at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul, on November 15, 2017. That's according to a report released Thursday by 38North, a North Korea monitoring project based out of Washington, DC.

"[The man's condition is] not surprising at all considering the North's hygiene and parasite problems".

North Korean soldiers are then believed to have fired around 40 rounds in a bid to stop him. He was shot in his buttocks, armpit, back shoulder and knee among other wounds, according to the hospital where the soldier is being treated. The problem is common among defectors, the professor said, but may not be reflective of the North Korean population.

South Korea's Lee also added that it could have "a very significant meaning considering the current situation".

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It's unclear whether the parasite has been seen in other parts of the world.

A special Chinese envoy to North Korea departed for Pyongyang on Friday amid speculation that the North's protracted halt in missile tests might be a signal that it's warming to the idea of direct talks with the US.

In 2014, Kim Jong-un personally urged farmers to use human faeces, along with animal waste and organic compost, to fertilise their fields.

Even harder to overcome, he said, is the view of night soil as the "best fertiliser in North Korea", despite the risk of worms and parasites. This means the soldier's body is representative of many North Koreans and potentially insightful for researchers hoping to learn about the wider health of the country. Use of the corn found in his stomach, which is cheaper than rice but less popular, has increased in years when North Koreans are more anxious about harvests.

North Korea has conducted dozens of missile tests this year, and its largest and biggest nuclear test was on Sept 3.

Since the 1990s, when government rations failed to prevent a starvation hitting the country, North Koreans have gradually turned to markets and other private means to feed themselves.

On average, North Koreans are less nourished than their southern neighbours. A study in 2009 found preschool children in the North were up to 13cm shorter and up to 7kg lighter than those brought up in the South.

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