More than 50 people have been arrested for buying or selling illegal substances in and around Hyesan in Yangkang Province in this calendar year alone, a source from the city has revealed.
“In the ten days since the beginning of this year, public security agents have arrested more than 50 people involved with drug trafficking,” the source told Daily NK on the 18th. “These people were not arrested for using drugs, they were arrested for selling and smuggling them.”
Most of the arrested people are from the lower class; poorer people,” the source went on. “They were acting as mules for affluent people and got caught in the act. Around 70% of them are women, and most will probably be sent to reeducation facilities.”
However, the source pointed out, “People in the drugs trade are all linked in a chain, so if one gets caught then everyone else ends up getting arrested. This means that the longer the investigation goes on, the more people are going to get arrested.”
As in many other places, drug smuggling is an attractive option for those with few other ways to make significant amounts of money, and as a result there is nothing that the security forces can really do to stop it.
As the source stated, “Even though the authorities are not only hard on drug addicts but also on those who deal drugs, the people have no other choice but to trade drugs in order to survive.” According to the source, methamphetamines currently cost about $260 per gram, an amount that is currently enough to buy something like 35kg of rice.
North Korea’s burgeoning methamphetamines abuse problems began when the authorities started producing the drug at pharmaceutical complexes in Heungnam, South Hamkyung Province and Ranam in North Hamkyung Province for export in order to raise funds for Kim Jong Il’s rule. However, factory workers started to steal the drug and re-sell it domestically, creating a burgeoning class of users including not only affluent Party cadres but even students, housewives and soldiers.