Defector claims North Korea carries out human chemical weapons tests

A scientist who escaped North Korea and defected to Finland last month claims he has evidence that the secretive dictatorship tests chemical and biological weapons on its citizens, and will present evidence to the European Parliament in the coming weeks.

The 47-year-old man, known only as Mr Lee, claims to have evidence of the human experiments on a 15GB storage device which he carried with him when he crossed over the border from North Korea into China last month.

Whilst there is very little information regarding Lee's background, a source from a North Korean human rights group told the South Korean news channel Yonhap News that Lee fled his research centre which was located on the Chinese border on 6 June and headed to Finland via the Philippines.

According to Yonhap News: "His ostensible reason for defection is that he felt sceptical about his research."

A number of other defectors have previously claimed that the North Korean government carries out tests on disabled human subjects, both adults and children.

Im Cheon-yong, a scientist and defector from North Korea's special forces told the Telegraph in December last year that he had personally witnessed chemical weapons tests being carried out on children with mental and physical disabilities during the 1990s.

Im said: "For the biological and chemical warfare tests, we needed 'objects'. We watched the instructors carrying out the tests on humans to show us how a person dies. I saw it with my own eyes."

Im, a former officer in North Korea's special forces who defected in the 1990s, claimed he knew of children who have been bought from families for weapons testing and disabled adults being used for tests involving anthrax and other chemical weapons as far back as 1984.

His claims reiterated those of another defector, Ji Seong-ho, who told the Telegraph that the North Korea regime was systematically "cleansing" the country of disabled adults and children.

Lee's case however, could be the first in which visual and written evidence carried over the border can prove the allegations, which would violate international humanitarian law.

John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, told Newsweek it is not yet known if Lee traveled alone or with his family but said that he will remain in Finland to give testimony before the European parliament. The date for his testimony has yet be confirmed.

Provided Lee's evidence can be formally verified, Sifton says, his testimony would be the first time real evidence had emerged of North Korea's human scientific experimentation.

"He is not the first defector we have come across who has allegations of human rights abuses inside the camps of North Korea," Sifton says, "But if his evidence is about scientific experimentation, then it's completely new."

Sifton hopes the exposure of such crimes will have a psychological effect on the North Korean regime.

"His account will be crucial in keeping the idea of the ICC [International Criminal Court] floating around the heads of regime figures and will prevent them from committing some of the more gross abuses against its people," Sifton says.

Although the exact date of Lee's testimony has not yet been confirmed, Sifton believes, "the European parliament will be the best platform for him to give evidence. It will be a great place for the public to hear and learn about what he has to say too."