Korea saw a nearly three-fold increase in drug-related crimes committed by foreigners in 2008 from a year ago. According to a report released by the Supreme Public Prosecutors' Office on Tuesday, the number of foreigners charged with trafficking or using illicit drugs in 2008 rose to 928 from 298 in 2007. Taiwanese made up the largest group with 711, followed by Americans (63), Chinese (43) and Russians (19).
Illicit drugs include narcotics like opium and heroin, stimulants such as methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy), and cannabinoids like marijuana and hashish oil. The number of foreign offenders involved in using these banned substances surged from 165 in 2007 to 727 in 2008, the report found. The SPO expects the trend will continue for the time being as the number of foreigners coming to Korea for work or study is on the rise.
Drug smuggling channels have also diversified. Until 2007 methamphetamine was mostly smuggled from China, but in 2008 almost 40 percent came from Turkey, South Africa and Malaysia. Meanwhile, the number of Korean drug offenders fell slightly from 10,649 in 2007 to 9,898 in 2008.