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In drug-free Korea, trafficking is on the rise

‘We expect the amount of marijuana smuggled into Korea to rise further following legalization in some states in the U.S.’
July 06,2017
The amount of drugs smuggled into Korea jumped significantly in the first half this year, jeopardizing the country’s long-held reputation as a relatively drug-free nation.

Methamphetamine accounted for the majority of drugs confiscated by Korea’s customs agency, at 52 percent. The amount of meth was enough to get 480,000 people high, according to the Korea Customs Service, which on Wednesday released data about drug trafficking in the first half.

The agency said it seized 27.5 kilograms (60.6 pounds) of drugs worth 41.3 billion won ($35.9 million) in the first six months of the year. The amount confiscated jumped 1.6 times compared to the same time last year.

The Korea Customs Service reported 197 cases of drug trafficking in the first half.

“We continue to catch more drug smugglers that use international mail or travelers themselves,” said Lee Seung-kyu, a director at the agency. “It appears that the increased number of Koreans traveling abroad had an impact on this as well.”

International mail was the most widely used method, with 66 percent of drugs shipped from overseas. This was followed by travelers (18 percent) and express cargo (12 percent).

By drug, meth accounted for 52 percent of drugs smuggled, followed by marijuana (15 percent) and ecstasy (12 percent).

The amount of meth smuggled into the country more than doubled to 14.4 kilograms this year from 7.1 kilograms last year.

In the past, most meth came from China, but the customs agency has found more are being smuggled from the United States and Taiwan.

Meth from the United States accounted for the majority, 9 kilograms, and in one case, customs officers found the drug going through the U.S. military mail. This was followed by China with 1.5 kilograms, Thailand with 1.1 kilograms and Taiwan with 1 kilogram.

The amount of marijuana nearly doubled from 2.1 kilograms to 4.1 kilograms. The customs agency said smugglers have become more creative with their methods, importing the drug infused in oil and baked goods.

“We expect the amount of marijuana smuggled into Korea to rise further following legalization in some states in the U.S.,” Lee said.

Party drugs like ecstasy and LSD, which are relatively new in Korea, are growing in popularity, particularly among young Koreans, the customs agency said. The government confiscated 1,973 ecstasy pills in the first half this year, up from just 143 pills last year.

In terms of LSD, there were no cases of smuggling last year, but the customs agency discovered 13 attempts this year so far.

The government did not find a single LSD pill in the first half last year, but that rose to 1,500 in the first six months of this year.

“The government will expand the number of inspectors and detection machines and develop ways to catch drugs trafficking into Korea, which continues to rise,” Lee said.

“We will also cooperate more closely with other authorities like the prosecution and police, as well as international organizations such as the World Customs Organization, and also run campaigns in the country to lower the number of crimes related to drugs.”


BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]