Korea is no longer ‘drug free’ country

11-Dec-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

With the image surrounding illegal drugs in Korea becoming slightly more relaxed, and an increasing number of young Koreans encounter them abroad, domestic demand for such substances has increased. As the supply has increased to meet demand, and with the internet making it easier to trade illegal substances, drugs have become more accessible to a wider range of people.

Many young Koreans say they had their first experience of illegal drugs when studying overseas. In particular, Korean students staying in the United States say they have easy access to drugs that are illegal here on their university campuses.

“My first experience was taking marijuana in America,” a 31-year-old businessperson told The Korea Times, asking to be identified only as Kim. “I was a freshman and it was really easy to get marijuana there. At first, you try edibles like brownies or cookies. It takes a very short time until you get used to taking it on a regular basis because you don’t feel your health deteriorating.

“Also, it makes you feel comfortable and safe to see many of your friends doing the drug and living a fine ordinary life. Then, you come to believe that you can quit at any time,” Kim said.

Kim says many students want to continue to take drugs after returning to Korea and search for dealers who can get them what they want.

“I would meet a drug dealer at Gangnam Station, both in our cars, and he would hand me the drugs through the window. I didn’t get to see his face though,” Kim said.

The scions of some conglomerates have been or are on trial for smuggling or using illegal substances.

A grandson of SK Group founder Chey Jong-gun was arrested in April for purchasing and using liquid marijuana. The scion reportedly bought the banned substance from an acquaintance he met while studying in the US Also, a grandson of Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung was found to have bought the drug from the same dealer while studying abroad.

CJ Group heir-apparent Lee Sun-ho was caught at Incheon International Airport in September carrying dozens of e-cigarette cartridges filled with highly enriched liquid marijuana from Los Angeles, along with 167 edible marijuana products.

It is said the demand for methamphetamine, better known as “philopon” here, is also growing among ordinary citizens because it is a stimulant.

A police officer investigating illegal drug crimes said it used to be mostly night clubbers who took philopon in the past, but it is now so common due to the internet that truck drivers and even housewives have been caught using the drug.

“Philopon has been the most popular drug among Koreans and it was mainly traded at nightclubs where partygoers or prostitutes purchased meth for a more stimulating experience,” the officer said under the condition of anonymity. “However, the internet has made it easy for ordinary people to purchase illegal drugs, particularly truck drivers who have to drive long distances at night,” he said.

With the internet available to anybody with a mobile phone, drug dealers can sell their product using social media.

According to the National Police Agency (NPA), messaging app Telegram has become the most popular tool for drug dealers. The communication software makes it very hard for local police to track down accounts as the app automatically deletes users’ conversations.

Such technology has allowed many drug dealers to sell their products online, with such trades taking up 21.1 percent of the total 9,340 on/offline drug crimes uncovered this year, an increase from 12.4 percent in 2017 and 18.7 percent last year.

“Not only the internet, but also restrictions in investigation and lenient punishment under the Narcotics Control Act have allowed banned substance trading to prosper in Korea,” the officer said.

“In drug-related crimes, police have to secure concrete evidence to arrest the suspect, but this requires confirmation of the illegal substance from the National Forensic Service beforehand. In other words, Korean police can never arrest a suspect on the spot for trading suspected prohibited products and have to disguise themselves as customers first. If the product is confirmed to be a banned substance, then police can track down the criminal using CCTV and credit card transactions,” he said.



Category: Korea

Print This Post