North Korea defector fears return

HE may be on the road to recovery, but a North Korean defector is still tormented by nightmares of being shipped back to the cruel regimen, his doctor said.

But lead surgeon John Cook-Jong Lee, who has been operating on and taking care of the disease-riddled 24-year-old soldier identified only as Oh, said the soldier needn't fret.

"This North Korean guy is not going anywhere," Lee said. "He is staying in South Korea. So we don't need to be hasty."

Lee has been one of the few people to speak with Oh since he arrived at Ajou Univeristy Hospital.

"He's a pretty nice guy," the doctor said.

Dramatic video shot November 13 showed Oh racing toward the border in a jeep, and then on foot as North Korean soldiers pursued him. He was hit by bullets five times before being pulled to safety by South Korean border guards.

Doctors had to pull at least four bullets out of him and treated pre-existing conditions including tuberculosis, hepatitis B and a bad case of intestinal worms.

Oh is now finally eating his first "clear liquid," foods such as broth, and can smile, talk and use his hands, his doctor said.

"He's quite a strong man," Lee said.

The defector will have lifelong scars from injuries sustained during his escape, including damage to his colon, which was shredded by a bullet and had to be repaired in seven places.

"It's a lifelong complication for the patient, so he's better to be very cautious in his diet," Lee said.

Lee, who has hung a South Korean flag in the soldier's room, is worried about making sure his patient recovers psychologically and is avoiding any upsetting subjects.

He's also been feeding Oh a diet of South Korean pop music and American movies and TV shows, and said the North Korean defector was a fan of "CSI," the thriller "Transporter 3" and the Jim Carrey comedy "Bruce Almighty."

Oh joined the North Korean army right after graduating high school, when he was 17.

The doctor noticed that Oh's hair was styled "like a jarhead, like a US Marine," and joked with him about joining the South Korean marines.

"He smiled and said that he would never go back to the military system again," the doctor recalled.

Lee said South Korean military officials are eager to question his patient but he's asked them to hold off until he recovers.

This article originally appeared on the New York Post and has been republished here with permission.

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