Methamphetamine Remains Most Abused Drug in Korea

Korea has a higher proportion of users of methamphetamine compared to other drugs than the West, a straw poll indicates.

In a survey of 523 drug addicts led by Prof. Kim Dae-jin at Catholic University of Korea's College of Medicine and commissioned by the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, methamphetamine was the most commonly abused substance. In North America and Europe, the percentage of cocaine, heroin and marijuana is much higher than of methamphetamine, which is more damaging to the brain.

Experts cite the historical background. Methamphetamine spread during World War II in Japan, where it was given to munitions workers and soldiers as a performance enhancer. When Korean laborers returned after the war, they brought the drug with them, and it is still known here under the generic brand name Philopon (pronounced "Hiropon").

Heo Cheol-ho, the director of Narcotics Division at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, claimed there was no case of manufacturing methamphetamine for sale in Korea since 2000. The reason for the continued dominance of the drug is smuggling from major production centers such as China, Russia, and northern Malaysia, according to Heo. Over 50 percent of methamphetamine seized in Korea is found on its way in from China.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 08, 2010 07:21 KST