We've known about North Korea's practice of selling state-manufactured, high quality meth in foreign countries, typically China, for at least two years, but now it seems the drug is sweeping the country. A new report in North Korea Review, highlighted today by the Wall Street Journal, is titled "A New Face of North Korean Drug Use: Upsurge in Methamphetamine Abuse Across the Northern Areas of North Korea," and alleges that meth has gone from the state's factories to smaller, independent "underground laboratories and 'home kitchens.'" The drug is now prevalent in the Northern areas of the country. One of the study's authors, Kim Seok-hyang, told The Journal, "Almost every adult in that area (of North Korea) has experienced using ice and not just once … I estimate that at least 40 percent to 50 percent are seriously addicted to the drug."
Opium was once the North Korean drug of choice, but the fields dried up in the middle of the last decade. But now meth is being embraced. In March, a report alleged an unknown number of North Korean diplomats were given about 44 pounds of illegal drugs to sell on trips abroad. (Including a diplomat in at least one Eastern European country!) Meth seems to have also reached the people. "Doing ice was a social thing; it was a lot of fun," a North Korean defector told The Journal. Sometimes teenagers give their friends meth as a birthday present. That same defector said he used crystal meth, typically referred to as "bingdu" or "ice," before crossing the Tumen River to escape the People's Republic for China. "I felt really focused, all I could think was go, go, go. I didn’t sleep for two days after that," he said.
Meth use has apparently become so widespread that Kim Jong Un tried to enforce a crackdown on meth use in the northern parts of the country almost two years ago. So far, it doesn't seem the effort was effective.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.