A stronger crackdown on drug smuggling on the SIno- North
Korea border is sending many users across the country on long trips in pursuit of what
has become a more scarce means of pleasure, Daily NK has learned.
“Border control has become a lot tighter,
making methamphetamine harder to get. Some residents with strong addictions are
even traveling to areas where the drugs are produced,” a source in Yangkang
Province told Daily NK on Wednesday. “In the past, you could get meth in
provincial or city black markets, but these days this has become more
challenging, so people are seeking out places where it’s being made.”
When it comes to border crackdowns, she went on, “the one thing that is absolutely never excluded is smuggling drugs.” These crackdowns have led to stalled manufacturing by domestic producers, who are waiting for things to ease up and begin selling again to China. The lack of supply is sending addicts — often in groups — to Hamheung in South
Hamkyung Province or Suncheon in South Pyongan Province, where they buy meth.
Even for those who have been incarcerated
in long-term reeducation camps or labor-training camps for drug crimes, many
still end up pursuing their addiction after release. The state may carry out
persistent crackdowns on drug use, but narcotics are still commonly used for
Not only that, ironically, enhanced
crackdowns and surveillance has led to greater pent-up anxiety and in many ways
encouraged the use of such substances, said the source. In the past, drug users
were mostly men who had some wiggle room with their spending, but now addictive
substance abuse is spreading not only to those in lower income brackets but
middle and high school students as well.
“Currently, it’s very hard to find anyone
in Hyesan who smuggles or sells drugs,” she said. “Some people who use
meth will travel to Hamheung-its production location–and then climb through
the mountains on foot to get back to Hyesan.”
She added, “State Security Department and Ministry of
People’s Security officials have figured out that people head over to Hamheung,
Wonsan, and Suncheon, and then take a train over to Danchon, to make the final
leg of the journey on foot to Hyesan–so officials spend a lot of time on the
“I don’t know what this world has come to.
In the past, there were only an insignificant number of meth addicts, but now
you can see them everywhere.”
Much of this proliferation in drugs is
attributed to the failing medical system in the country. One of the residents
told the source what started as a method to cope with an inflammation in the
gallbladder has become a full-blown addiction to opium. “In difficult times
like this, I can’t seem to get by without my drugs. I can’t live with my head
clear,” he told our source.
Many people believe hospital treatment and
medicine they receive will not have any effect, so they choose to use opium and
then end up being addicts.
Medical care in North Korea is purportedly
free but having deteriorated at a rapid pace since the mid ‘90s, most people
are required to pay for the medication that is available; in these cases, connections generally prove more advantageous than financial means alone.
This, according to the source, has contributed to a swelling in opium
and other drug users within the country.