[imText1]Kim Jong Ae (pseudonym) a Korean-Chinese businessman who trades in Dandong, China has countless number of worries because of North Korean tradesmen.
Kim’s worries revolve around the drug addictions of North Korean tradesmen. Kim said “Tradesmen from Pyongyang and Shinuiju have lost all sense of time and keeping promises ever since they have become addicted to drugs. They don’t pick up their phones and never carry through with favors properly.”
Kim appealed, “People who are relatively well-off take drugs along with their wives. Hence, it’s hard to find competent young tradesmen who don’t do drugs.”
Furthermore, Suh Myung Ok (pseudonym) of Chongjin, North Hamkyung confirmed this fact. Suh is a housewife in her late 30s and came to visit relatives in Dandong, China. Suh said, “Even my husband takes drugs. Sometimes, in the evenings he suggests I take drugs with him but if I take drugs as well, who will look after and feed the children. I get so upset watching my husband withering away.”
Suh said, “My brother in-law and his 17 year daughter all sit around and take drugs after dinner” alarming the reporter.
Today, an average North Korean household of 4 earns around 50,000~100,000 North Korean won (approx. US$16.9~33.9) per month. Though this differs according to each region, the average person can purchase rice and coal with this income and get by each month.
Choi said, “Even if it isn’t rice, a family of 4 can eat rice mixed with corn and even kimchi, 3 meals a day with 50,000won’s salary in a month” and “Still, you need about 100,000won (US$34) to eat 3 solid meals a day and soup with pieces of meat in it once a week and to keep warm.”
“Anyone who spends and eats more than 100,000won per month has a stable life. Nowadays, you can earn 50,000won monthly by selling noodles at the markets. In a city like Hamheung, any family who earns less than 50,000won can be seen as living a difficult life. In Shinuiju, there aren’t many people who eat corn rice or porridge.”
Considering North Korea’s cost of living, a family which consumes more than 100,000won per month is living with worries of food. People who are falling into the trap of drugs are this class of people who earn more than 100,000won per month.
Choi said, “People who earn more than 100,000won have tried drugs at least once or twice.” Choi believes that at least 1 out of 10 people in Hamheung’s upper class are drug addicts.
There are two main groups of drug users in North Korea. There are some who have used drugs once or twice simply to cure illnesses. Often drugs are used to cure colds or child sicknesses.
The problem is that the families who earn more than 100,000won per month go beyond using drugs purely to cure illnesses. Drug dealers target this group of people continuously tempting them to use and purchase drugs.
Reasons why North Korean citizens become attracted to drugs
There are three main reasons why North Koreans become addicted to drugs.
Drugs can be accessed far too easily in North Korea. In cities such as Hamheung, Shinuiju or Pyongyang, drugs can be accessed any time you want. Often friends and acquaintances casually offer one another drugs. If you are economically stable, drug dealers place you on the “target list.”
According to testimonies, drug dealers manipulate people into thinking that drugs will make your head clearer and body stronger. Then they allow people to taste-test, making them buy drugs and become long-time drug users.
Even if you have money in North Korea, there aren’t many places to go for enjoyment. Hence, a critical factor to the increased number of drug users. There aren’t any ways to relieve stress after a day work at the markets. The only way to easily control stress from regulations is through drugs. In North Korea, taking drugs, stealing and prostitution are common ways of relieving oneself.
Further, due to the lack of medicine, drugs are used to treat even the most simple illnesses. Even if a person gets sick from a cold or diarrhea, there is no medicine and so drugs are used.
Presently, medicinal drugs which circulate throughout North Korean markets are on the whole fake drugs manufactured from China or drugs which have expired. Even North Korea-Chinese tradesmen acknowledge this. Even if you take effective and good medicine into North Korea, the costs are so high that it is difficult to sell them. North Korea’s upper class use medicinal drugs which they have obtained through direct contact with China.
These are the circumstances faced by people and while the drugs are initially used to cure illnesses, without knowing they have become drug addicts.