Stop North Koreas Drug Addiction, International Interest Needed

[Drug Republic of North Korea 5]
Kim Min Se, Reporter from Shinuijoo  |  2007-07-19 01:19
[imText1]A great number of North Korean citizens use philopon or heroin as a means to treat sicknesses. Many citizens confess they use drugs, as fake medicine made from China does not have the same effect. Drugs are used as a substitute for fast and effective cures for anesthesia, pain and fear.

It is relatively easy to obtain drugs in North Korea and a person can obtain drugs through no more than two connections. In the city of Hamheung, North Hamkyung, 1g of philopon trades for 13,000~15,000 North Korean won (approx. US$5). This is rather expensive considering that a kilo of rice costs about 1,000 won.

As there is an extreme low supply of good quality medicine, people use drugs as a cure for simple illnesses such as diarrhea and headaches. Due to malnutrition and low hygiene, the chances of diseases spreading are extremely high. When there is an outbreak of disease, a great number of people prescribe drugs as a form of medicine.

Good Friends a North Korean aid organization claimed in their June newsletter, There is an increasing trend of male drug users in their 20~30s and revealed the serious situation in North Korea, These people who first use drugs to satisfy their curiosity slowly become addicted and are unable to break free due to life pains and feeling of emptiness.

There are many stories by North Korean Chinese tradesmen who testify to the sudden rise in drug manufacture following North Koreas mass famine in the 90s. Further, the number of drug addicts continues to escalate. The situation has reached the point where one in ten people in Hamheungs lower class use drugs. Many predict it will not be easy to block this situation and solve North Koreas drug issue.

North Koreas vague response useless

Until now, North Korean authorities announced a decree that stated that drug associated criminals would be automatically executed or sentenced to severe punishment. In March, a decree was made which stated that any persons associated with the sale, manufacture or export of drugs would be sentenced to execution. However, these decrees have ended up as a mere bluff.

In particular, North Korean authorities manufactured opium under the name "White Bellflower Business" trading drugs internationally through various ships and foreign routes. Furthermore, drugs were produced from the time of the mass famine in order to provide a means of income and hence it is not easy to regulate and enforce these orders.

In September 2006, the limitations of these decrees and the regulations by North Korean authorities were clearly visible in Hamheung, North Hamkyung.

Specialist drug manufacturers, drug dealers and high ranking officials of Hamheung were caught in a police dragnet but were able to evade the situation by offering bribes. In the end, more drug users arose from the situation. This occurs not only in Hamheung but is repeated in other areas of North Korea.

North Korean people say that these execution punishments and decrees are no different to a paper tiger. In other words, it is harmless. Ultimately, the first priority is to wipeout drug dependent users amidst the authorities and control drug suppliers.

Exterminate North Koreas drug addiction

In order to exterminate North Koreas drug addiction, authorities must first eradicate the White Bellflower Business. White Bellflower Business is an enterprise which manufactures opium throughout North Korea. Defectors have revealed that it is at these locations, that manpower and fertilizer from South Korea is supplied.

If raw materials to produce heroin is blocked, then suppliers would have no choice but to stop the manufacture of this drug which is so popular in North Korea.

Presently, scientists and researchers are on the whole responsible for the manufacture of philopon in North Korea. Further, these people are the ones to trade and distribute the drug throughout the country. At the least, the act of distributing drugs must be strongly restricted.

Moreover, detailed laws are needed to regulate drugs. Until now, only vague orders have been applied but in future, specific penalties and laws must be enacted. Whether a person is found with 1g of drugs or 100g of drugs, the same punishment must be applied to all persons associated. It is hard to restrict drug crimes through this way.

Need for support and interest from South Korea and the international community

On the 9th, Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency charged defector Ahn Myung Jin and girlfriend under the suspicions of secretly importing and distributing philopon made from North Korea. Ahn revealed that the philopon he had been importing were from Hamheung.

This is a case which clearly shows that the distribution of North Korean drugs has spread throughout the nations in the vicinity. This case also shows that North Koreas drug issue does not only pertain to North Korea.

According to a range of testimonies by North Korean citizens and North Korean Chinese tradesmen, a large amount of drugs circulate around the border regions of North Korea and China. Then, the drugs are re-dispatched through dealers by small-scale traders eventually trickling down to South Korea and Japan.

If neighboring countries and the international society does not address North Koreas drug issue, they too will suffer increased damages from this problem. Even if the two countries are unified, North Koreas drug issue will continue to persist. Here lies the seriousness of confronting North Korea drug problem.

The priority of the international community is to address North Koreas drug issue and conduct research that will indicate the real nature of the problem. With this evidence, North Korean authorities must be pressured and urged to take a proactive response.

Further, another measure would be to provide medicine to North Korea since people are currently using drugs as a substitute. There is a pressing need to provide basic medicine such as antibiotics, cold medicine and pain killers. Though there will be a need to monitor that these medicines reach the lower class and not only North Korean authorities and the elite.

However, the reality behind reducing the use of drugs is uncertain and hence it is possible that providing medicine may be ineffective. One affiliate of Good Friends said, International medical aid will be possible if specific illnesses and sufferers are located. However, it is true that using medicinal aid as a tactic to reduce drugs is weak.

There is also a need to build facilities to treat drug addicts. In North Korea, there are no rehabilitation centers to treat drug addicts. There is an urgent need for equipment and assistance from developed countries. With the assistance of South Korea and the international society, drug addicts can be treated through rehabilitation centers and hence medicine, which will eventually lead to controlling the abuse of drugs and medicine.
 
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