For the recovery of North Korean soldiers, South Koreans are pinning their hopes on this doctor



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TOKYO – No medical drama is complete without an intrepid but audacious and sensitive doctor in a leading role. The incredible story of a North Korean soldier's escape through the Demilitarized Zone last week is no exception.

The McDreamy in this case is Lee Cook-jong, the orthopedic surgeon who has operated on the soldier several times and has updated the world along with the way – from a video showing Lee pulling out 10-inch parasitic worms from the intestines of man to his statement on Wednesday that the defector will survive.

"The patient is not going to die," Lee told reporters gathered at Ajou University Hospital in southern Seoul, announcing that the man had regained consciousness and was stable. Although he is still in the intensive care unit, he could be transferred to a general ward this weekend.

The 24-year-old soldier from North Korea, who has only been identified by his surname Oh, received five shots at which time he made his cheeky escape on November 13.

Closed circuit television footage released by the US Forces in Korea on Wednesday showed Oh driving a jeep to the south, before having its wheels trapped in a ditch a few meters from the Military Demarcation Line. which forms the border.

Oh jumped and started running towards the line, but four North Korean border guards shot him over 40 rounds. A guard briefly crossed the line, violating the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953.

Then you see Oh lying in a pile of leaves against a building on the south side, before three South Korean soldiers they will drag and drag him to safety. From there, he was taken to a US Army Black Hawk helicopter. UU And he moved it 80 kilometers south to the Suwon hospital, where Lee was waiting.

"Had it not been for his emergency measures, he would have died before reaching the hospital," Lee said.

[ A dramatic video shows a North Korean soldier fleeing freedom ]

He still played and left when Oh arrived at the hospital. His blood pressure was so low after losing so much blood that the doctors did not even have time to control his blood type. Instead, they pumped around 40 units, between three and four times the amount of blood contained in a human body, type O in it.

He has had three surgeries, including an attempt to repair his damaged internal organs and stop the contamination caused by parasites and injuries.

Along the way, the trauma surgeon, often in scrubs, has been giving periodic updates on the soldier's condition.

The revelation that the man had a severe parasitic infection – Lee said he had never seen such a case except in medical textbooks – and that his stomach contained raw corn kernels had a great impact on South Korea. The front-line soldiers were supposed to be elite troops, but this man had worms that were not seen in South Korea since the 1970s and had been eating raw corn.

Oh he also has tuberculosis and hepatitis B, Lee said. And, with 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing approximately 130 pounds, it is several inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than the 18-year-old boy from South Korea.

There is great interest in the soldier, with military intelligence officers reportedly eager to ask about his escape, but Lee has been avoiding them. The soldier is showing signs of depression and post-traumatic stress, and it will be about a month before he is well enough to answer the questions, the doctor said.

For now, Lee keeps the conversation quiet, talking about the way things are done in South Korea instead of asking him about North Korea and trying to cheer him up.

The medical staff interpreted it as "Gee", a pop song full of life from Girls & # 39; Generation, with lyrics like "Oh, it's too pretty, your soul is too pretty / it's love at first sight" – and stated that he liked girls' bands.

Lee also said that Oh has been watching the American series "CSI" and the action movie "The Transporter," in which a former Special Forces agent is hired as a mercenary.

They have also hung a flag of South Korea in their room to badure you that it really is in the south.

[ North Korean soldier evaded fight for life after being shot through the DMZ ]

This is not the first time that Lee is the center of attention. He became a national hero in 2011 when he saved the life of a ship captain who had been shot by Somali pirates.

After the pirates captured the chemical freighter near the Gulf of Aden in 2011, the South Korean commandos attacked the ship, and the pirates fired the captain six times during the rescue attempt.

Lee was waiting in a hospital in Oman and he saved the captain's life, becoming the country's leading trauma surgeon. There was even a popular medical drama based on this story, "Golden Time." The title was a reference to Lee's frequent reminder that it is the hour after a serious injury that is most important to save someone's life.

Lee, 48, who is blind in one eye and recognized for working 36-hour shifts, was also the inspiration for a character in another drama, "Romantic Doctor, Master Kim," released last year. He became a celebrity that even octogenarians with diabetes tried to see him.

Lee became a physician in South Korea but trained as an intensive care surgeon at the University of California at the San Diego Medical Center in 2003. He then went to the traumatology center at Royal London Hospital.

Upon returning home, he realized that there were no equivalent facilities in any South Korean hospital and estimated that some 30,000 trauma patients died in the country each year due to delays in treatment and lack of trauma units. dedicated

He persuaded the authorities to fund appropriate trauma centers, including his unit at Ajou University Hospital. Now, 20 percent of the revenue from traffic tickets goes to trauma centers across the country.

[ American detained trying to enter North Korea; North Korean soldier escapes to the south ]

But for a trauma surgeon, Lee faces an unimaginable situation for American emergency physicians: he rarely treats gunshot wounds, because there are very strict rules on the property of weapons in South Korea.

Ten badbadinations with a firearm were reported in South Korea between 2010 and 2015, compared with 8,592 in the United States, according to the Small Arms Survey figures.

Instead, the relatively few gunshot wounds he received were sustained by South Korean and American soldiers wounded during the military drills, he told the Korea Times in 2015. Still, it seems to have been enough practice to save the soldier's life North Korean

Now, the South Koreans are waiting for Lee's next statement about the soldier's forecast.

In online forums, South Korean "netizens" have been sending their best wishes to Lee and his patient.

"A Korean who risked his life to cross to the south, I wish he could be saved!" Wrote one in an online medical forum. Another added: "Please, survive so you can live in South Korea!"

Read more:

What parasites in a deserter's stomach tell us about North Korea

Graph: this thin strip of land separates North and South Korea

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