As a result of decades of nuclear development there are now many North Korean cadres and ordinary workers suffering the effects of prolonged exposure to radiation, according to an inside source. The source acknowledged to Daily NK that the life span of uranium miners is shorter than in other sectors, and that there are higher incidences of birth defects due to radiation damage.
The person, who hails from North Hwanghae Province, told Daily NK on the 15th, "The workers from the uranium mine in Pyongsan don’t live as long as most people. It’s not only the miners’ children who have birth defects, but also the children born to Party secretaries in the region."
According to the source, the large uranium mine has approximately 3,000 workers. The miners there are apparently exposed to radiation with minimal protection.
The source added, "Many of the children are born with defects and disabled workers are easy to find. In 2008 a Party cadre who had worked at Yongbyon was dispatched to the uranium mine Party secretary’s post. His son and daughter were born unable to walk or stand; they could only lie there like octopuses."
"Imagine how severe the damage is among the actual miners and their families if even the children of cadres, who only work in admin positions after all, are suffering from this kind of radiation damage,” she added.
The key determinant of genetic harm from radiation is the length of exposure, As such, the miners, who are exposed for many hours each and every day, are at the highest risk of cancers and birth defects.
However, people are prepared to work in the dangerous conditions because they receive better wages and are among the few still guaranteed rations by the state. For example, in 2009, immediately after the currency redenomination, the normal salary of a laborer was 3,000 won per month, but the miners were receiving 20,000 won, roughly seven times the standard.
"People do say that the authorities need to come up with measures to make the situation better," the source said. “But they tell us that conditions at Yongbyon are worse.”