Meth Abuse 'Rampant' in N.Korea

      October 12, 2019 08:29

      Police investigations here of organized crystal meth smuggling from North Korea have revealed some startling information about widespread abuse of the drug in the North.

      Many North Koreans apparently regard the highly addictive drug as a healthful picker-upper that is effective in preventing cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and cerebral hemorrhages, when in fact the opposite is true.

      Many North Korean households apparently have stashes of crystal meth, which is touted as a panacea in some regions. There are statistics supporting such accounts. The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights interviewed 1,383 defectors from the North recently and found that just 4.7 percent had either taken narcotics or witnessed another person abusing drugs there in the 1990s, but that rose sharply to 36.7 percent by 2015.

      Some 33 percent of North Korean defectors who serve time in South Korean prisons are drug offenders. According to defectors, the most widely distributed drug in North Korea is crystal meth. A gram of the narcotic costs just US$15.

      The drugs, which are manufactured for export, have been siphoned off for local distribution since the late 1990s, when there was a massive famine, because they work among other things as an appetite suppressant. Methamphetamine was a widely popular slimming drug in the West in the middle of the last century.

      But with drug addiction becoming a serious problem in the North, law enforcement has started cracking down harshly on offenders. Drug-related offenses used to account for just 0.8 percent of all crimes in the North in the 1990s, but shot up to an estimated 9.3 percent after 2000 and to 20.3 percent since 2010. 

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