North Korea has network of secret nuclear villages: report
North Korea has established secret towns with thousands of closely guarded residents whose sole mission is to develop nuclear weapons, a South Korean lawmaker said on Tuesday.
Up to 36,000 people, including the North's top nuclear scientists and their families, live in the villages in complete isolation in the already reclusive country, Conservative Grand National Party lawmaker Song Young-sun said in a report.
"The areas where they reside are cut off from the outside -- not only geographically but also in terms of contact and communication with outsiders," Song's report said.
"All actions are heavily monitored," it said, adding that a special branch of the all-powerful ruling party was responsible for the top-secret project.
One of Song's aides said the 20-page report was compiled by the lawmaker and her staff from information collected from various sources including government agencies.
It was prepared for a session of parliament's Defense Committee, of which Song is a member.
The Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report, but analysts said the contents were plausible.
Song did not disclose the location of the towns,
but said they were likely near known nuclear sites.
A North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification, Cho Min, said the information was highly credible.
"This is a programme that the North has staked the fate of its regime on," Cho said, adding strands of Song's report had been told by refugees from the North.
The Guidance Bureau of the North's Workers' Party of Korea and senior party secretary Jon Pyong-ho have overall mandate of the nuclear programmes, Song said.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on October 9, prompting the U.N. Security Council to slap sanctions on Pyongyang.
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