North Korea sent a large amount of illegal drugs to its embassy in an East European country last December and ordered diplomats there to sell it for cash by early April, a diplomatic source here claims.
"South Korean intelligence obtained the information from a North Korean agent who defected recently," the source said. "Similar orders were delivered to other North Korean embassies."
North Korea has ordered each diplomat to raise US$300,000 to prove their loyalty and mark the birthday of nation founder Kim Il-sung on April 15.
Each North Korean diplomatic mission overseas is required to send back around $100,000 to the North each year, the agent-turned-defector allegedly said. They used to complain that new leader Kim Jong-un is too demanding.
Each North Korean diplomat is estimated to have been given up to 20 kg of drugs, so the North Korean embassy in the East European country may seek to sell around 200 kg.
Under the guidance of Room 39, a secretive agency that managed the private coffers of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the North has been producing various types of illegal drugs and selling them abroad. South Korean authorities estimate North Korea's annual output of illicit drugs amount to 3,000 kg that translate into revenues of between $100 million and $200 million.
North Korea mass-produces the illegal drugs in factories in Chongjin and Heungnam under tightly regulated conditions, and as a result the quality is top-notch, said one intelligence official here. "North Korean drugs are highly sought-after overseas."
A large amount of illegal drugs in circulation here is North Korean in origin and smuggled through China.
"Drugs are sent from North Korea several times a year by ship or trucks," the diplomat quoted the defector as saying. "An embassy staffer meets up with smugglers at a secret location to get them."