Drug diet fad emerges among elite

The repressed appetite and heightened sense of stimulation offered by crystal methamphetamine, otherwise known as
crystal meth, has made it an increasingly popular option for dieting among
the wives of Party cadres and trade workers in North Korea. The growing
practice has led to mounting concerns about substance abuse problems within the
country, Daily NK has learned. 

“More wives of cadres and traders these
days are purchasing methamphetamine,” a source from Yanggang Province told
Daily NK. “Those who are already addicted use them for pleasure, and there has
recently been an increase in those who get it for dieting purposes.”

Daily NK spoke with an additional source in
Yanggang Province who corroborated this news.

“(They say) going on meth completely
suppresses the appetite and keeps you alert even in the middle of the night
when you should be asleep,” he said, explaining that these women find it
attractive since it not only makes them feel good but also offers the added
benefit of weight loss, contributing to the rising numbers of these
dual-purpose users.  

Many women in this contingent convince their husbands, namely Party cadres or heads of
foreign-currency earning enterprises, to give them money so they can buy these
drugs to help them lose weight. Currently in the city of Hyesan, 1 gram of meth
is sold for 150 RMB by smugglers. On average, people use roughly 0.1-0.3 grams
in one sitting, but the most severe addicts can consume up to 1 gram in a
single day, according to the source.

“Taking meth in the North is nothing
shocking, and these officials find themselves permitting the practice because
they like their wives to be slim,” he explained.

Demand is so high, in fact, that one such
wife in Hyejang of Hyesan City was even lodging at her brokers’ home to buy her
supply, leading to fingerpointing from neighboring residents. “The crackdown on
meth has become more severe, so these kinds of things are happening all the
time,” the source asserted.

As previously reported by Daily NK, the
step-up on meth crackdowns along the Sino-North Korean border and harsher
punishments for users have failed to reduce the number of addicts.

“The reason why the numbers are not
dropping is because law enforcement officials and cadre members all have
addicts at home,” he noted. “Officials involved in the crackdowns fear their
wives will get caught up in things and make things difficult for them, so they
just turn a blind eye.”

Naturally, the ‘dieting trend’ has elicited
incredulous reactions among ordinary residents, who point out that “the average
person has no time, let alone opportunity, to gain weight between mandatory
work mobilizations and a shortage of food.” Disgruntled, beleaguered residents
point out that if cadres would share some of that food around, “they wouldn’t
eat it all alone and get fat.”

Last year, the North Korean authorities
added five extra clauses to Article 60 of the country’s criminal code, which
pertains to attempts to overthrow the state. Using or dealing in drugs appears
in the re-codified offenses, along with illegal phone contact with
foreigners, including South Koreans; viewing South Korean dramas or DVDs and
listening to [foreign] radio broadcasts; transnational human and sex
trafficking; and aiding and abetting defectors and leaking state secrets. The
additional clauses stipulate harsh punishments for these acts, which could in
principle incur the death penalty.

Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.