North Korea may be developing more than just nuclear weapons.
According to tests conducted on a recent North Korean defector, soldiers who have managed to escape Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian regime have come into contact with the deadly chemical, anthrax, spawning fears that North Korea may be working on a chemical attack or “dirty bomb.”
Last year, four soldiers escaped from North Korea into South Korea. Of those four, at least one has developed anthrax antibodies, meaning that they were likely given a vaccine so that they could work in close proximity with the biological agent.
Outside of contact with infected animals and leftover samples held by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, contact with anthrax (and, subsequently, developing antibodies) is nearly unheard of. South Korean officials say the only way the North Korean soldiers would have encountered the substance is if Kim Jong-un was experimenting with the possibility of using chemical weapons, as anthrax is not a contagious disease.
This development came just after a Japanese media outlet, Asahi Shimbun, claimed that sources told them North Korea is “conducting heat and pressure resistance tests to see whether anthrax germs can survive the intense heat of an intercontinental ballistic missile,” USA Today reports.
North Korea says it’s not developing chemical weapons, of course.
In response to the news, South Koreans started a petition drive, demanding that the government conduct an inoculation drive, and vaccinate all citizens against anthrax. South Korean officials say that while they have anthrax vaccines on hand, they will use them to treat victims of a biological agent attack, not as a preventative measure, even though, six weeks from now, South Korea will host the Winter Olympics.