North Korea’s wounded defector ‘nice guy,’ says surgeon – National


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SEOUL, Nov 23 (Reuters) – North Korea‘s newest defector, a younger soldier identified solely by his household title Oh, is a quiet, nice man who has nightmares about being returned to the North, his surgeon mentioned on Thursday.

“He’s a reasonably good man,” mentioned lead surgeon John Prepare dinner-Jong Lee, who has been working and caring for the 24-year-old. Oh has turn into a spotlight of worldwide consideration after he was badly wounded by fellow North Korean troopers as he scrambled throughout the border within the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South on Nov. 13.

Video of Oh’s escape launched on Wednesday confirmed him stumbling over the border and being dragged unconscious by the undergrowth by South Korean troops.

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Surgeon Lee has been virtually the one individual to talk with Oh since he arrived on the hospital, he advised Reuters in an interview at his workplace at Ajou College Hospital, only a few flooring away from the place the defector lies guarded by South Korean particular forces and intelligence officers.

The surgeon, who has hung a South Korean flag within the soldier’s room, mentioned he’s avoiding topics which will disturb his affected person. Oh is consuming his first “clear liquid” meals similar to broths, and might smile, discuss, and use his fingers, Lee mentioned. However when his affected person woke on Sunday he cried out in ache, and Lee mentioned he’s nonetheless anxious in regards to the South Korean guards.

Lee mentioned Oh advised him that he had joined the North Korean military when he was 17, proper after secondary faculty commencement. The soldier’s hair is styled “like a jarhead, like a U.S. Marine, so I truly joked ‘why don’t you be part of the South Korean Marines?’ He smiled and mentioned that he would by no means ever return to the army system once more.”

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Medical groups have labored for days to take away the shards of a minimum of 4 bullets from Oh’s physique, sew up his shredded organs, and deal with pre-existing situations together with tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and a case of large intestinal worms, Lee mentioned.

“He’s a fairly sturdy man,” mentioned Lee.

Since Oh’s defection, North Korea appeared to have changed all its safety guards on the border, an intelligence supply within the South advised Yonhap information company on Thursday.

Collapsed lung

Lee mentioned that when the defector arrived in an American army helicopter on the hospital – which is supplied with state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and is used to deal with VIP guests similar to visiting U.S. presidents – he got here with zero private info.

On the flight in, American military flight medics had fought to maintain Oh alive, jabbing a big needle into his chest to deal with a collapsed lung.

Oh was instantly wheeled right into a diagnostic room the place docs confirmed he was affected by large inside bleeding. “We knew then that we didn’t have time to hesitate,” Lee mentioned, standing in that room Thursday evening.

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Two main surgical procedures had been required to take away the bullets and patch Oh again collectively, and the medical workforce pumped as a lot as 12 liters of latest blood into his physique. The conventional physique has lower than half as a lot blood.

“He advised me that he’s so grateful for South Koreans for saving his life and giving him that a lot blood,” Lee mentioned.

Lee has been enjoying South Korean pop music and American movies and TV exhibits for his affected person, however has not uncovered him to any information protection.

Among the many exhibits, Oh confirmed a liking for the French-American thriller “Transporter three,” comedy “Bruce Almighty” starring Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman; and the crime-solving TV sequence “CSI,” Lee mentioned.


Most North Korean defectors bear safety questioning by South Korea’s intelligence company as soon as they arrive within the South earlier than being despatched to a resettlement middle for a three-month schooling on life within the South. After they’re launched, central and native governments present 7 million gained ($6,450) in money over a yr, in addition to help in housing, schooling and job coaching.

Law enforcement officials are assigned to every of the defectors to make sure their safety and security.

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Even when Oh totally recovers, some scars will keep for the remainder of his life, the surgeon mentioned.

Among the many most lasting wounds would be the harm to his colon, which was shredded by a bullet and needed to be stitched again collectively in seven locations. “It’s a lifelong complication for the affected person, so he’s higher to be very cautious in his food plan,” mentioned the surgeon.

WATCH: What North Korean defector Ellie Cha misses about residence

Apart from the potential for additional medical issues, Lee says he’s most apprehensive about ensuring Oh recovers psychologically. The soldier has already advised him he had a nightmare about being returned to the North.

The surgeon mentioned he has requested senior South Korean army officers who’re wanting to query the soldier to carry off whereas he recovers.

“This North Korean man shouldn’t be going wherever,” Lee mentioned. “He’s staying in South Korea. So we don’t have to be hasty.”

(Extra reporting by Soyoung Kim; Edited by Sara Ledwith)

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