October 08, 2019 13:12
Police have arrested 19 people on charges of selling and using crystal methamphetamine smuggled in from North Korea.
A police spokesman on Monday said, "We arrested 19 people including North Korean defectors on charges of taking and distributing what we suspect is North Korean-made crystal meth, and handed 18 over to prosecutors while four of them are put in remand prison."
"Most of those arrested are either defectors and foreigners," the spokesman added. "We have expanded our investigation due to suspicions that individual [South Korean] citizens or organized group are involved."
All admitted that the crystal meth came from North Korea. "Crystal meth is a synthetic drug and even the National Forensic Service has a difficult time tracking the source, but the suspects' testimonies are identical," the spokesman said.
Police have also expanded their investigation to Dandong, Dalian, Weihai and Shenyang in China as well as the border area with North Korea.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's intelligence unit rather than the narcotics team has been entrusted with the case. It normally handles investigations of industrial espionage and other crimes that harm the national interest.
A police officer said, "This means that either North Korean drugs are becoming a serious problem here or that the North Korean government may be involved in drug distribution."
Police suspect that the North Korean regime smuggles the precursor chemical ephedrine hydrochloride into the country to produce crystal meth at labs in Pyongyang and Heungnam. It is then smuggled back into Chinese cities including Dandong, Dalian and Weihai, from where it is shipped to Incheon and Pyeongtaek ports.
North Korea has long been accused of manufacturing high-quality crystal meth for the international market, probably with military involvement, to earn much-needed valuta.
It sells and distributes an estimated 40 tons of heroin and 3,000 kg of crystal meth and other synthetic drugs and makes US$100-200 million in profits per year.
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