Mobsters Held in Smuggling of N.Korean Drugs

Police have arrested a Chinese-South Korean gang on charges of trafficking 5.95 kg of North Korean-made methamphetamines into the South. The Seoul District Prosecutor's Office said Sunday among the 13 people arrested is a 56-year-old man in Busan identified only as Kim who is linked to organized crime in the southern port city, and a 35-year-old Korean Chinese identified as Chung from Shenyang, Liaoning Province, also a suspected mafioso.

Kim allegedly received the drugs from Chung and smuggled them into Busan port on ships disguised as fishing trawlers, prosecutors said. Another member of the gang in Busan, who committed suicide last year, sold the drugs on to about a dozen different gangs throughout South Korea. 

The arrested Chinese gangsters said they believed the methamphetamines were made in North Korea, prosecutors said. The 5.95 kg that were seized have a street value of W19.8 billion (US$1=W1,117).

It is widely known in the international community that North Korea is the source of various narcotics that are trafficked around the world.

South Korean police believe North Korean-made drugs are trafficked along two routes. The first is through the three Chinese provinces that border North Korea -- Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang -- where Chinese triads are involved in trafficking, for sale in China, South Korea and Japan. In August last year, one South Korean and two Japanese were arrested by Chinese police on charges of buying and selling 60 kg of North Korean methamphetamines in their hotel room in Shenyang. In July last year, three South Koreans were caught in Longjing smuggling 4.5 kg of North Korean methamphetamines. In 2009, 35 people were arrested in the three Chinese provinces on charges of drug trafficking, and most of them were apparently North Korean-made.

The other route is by ship directly to Australia, the Philippines or Japan. Some of these shipments involve hundreds of kilograms and lead to sharp decreases in the street price of meth. North Korean methamphetamine is known for its purity and apparently fetches high prices on the streets.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 07, 2011 12:35 KST