[imText1]Only six, seven years ago, drugs inside North Korea secretly circulated among a portion of the upper-level officials and the specially affluent class, such as Chinese emigrants. Opium or heroine, produced in North Korea, were sold abroad to make foreign currency.
North Korea produces and exports drugs at the national level. Events where North Korean vessels and diplomats, through drug transport or charges of sales, are prosecuted by third-party countries is common. South Korean government, in the midst of North Korea’s breakdown in foreign currency supply in 1998, has deduced at one point that foreign-currency earners through illicit drug sales and illegal activities had amassed 100 million dollars.
From year 1970, North Korea’s drug sales, which secretly began on a small-scale, by the decree of Chairperson Kim Jong Il, rose in reality as a national enterprise and began official productions. In the August of same year, Chairperson Kim named the opium seed cultivation work as “White Bellflower Business.”
Further, he bestowed the appellation, “White Bellflower Hero,” to the person who sold over 1 million dollars of drugs, and ordered, “For the acquisition of foreign currency, export opium on a large scale (information reported by the National Intelligence Service, Lee Jong Chan former Chair at the inspection of National Intelligence Service on November 6, 1998).” As for North Korea’s drug production factories, the Nanam Pharmaceutical Factory in Chongjin and Hamheung’s Heungnam Pharmaceutical Factory are well-known.
Drugs, which are costly to average civilians preoccupied with making a living, were considered as a portion of the special class’ acts of aberration. The North Korean government, besides the foreign-currency earners, strictly inspected acts of drug circulations, so one could not even dream about this as a means of making money.
After the collapse of national provisions, drug sales also increase.
However, the food shortage brought a huge change to North Korea’s drug production and circulation. When the planned-economy system, where the nation was in charge of the provisions, broke down, the citizens started doing sales for survival. In North Korea where means of making money are not abundant, the place where one can smell money is at the market.
The revitalization of the jangmadang (black market) and general markets gave citizens in the cities a certain of opportunity to make a living. Further, they learned the mentality that money is best for survival. The custom began to spread where the citizens went through thick and thin if it meant working at a money-making job. Drugs infiltrated this opening.
Drugs that are most highly circulated in North Korea are philopon and heroine. The center of philipon productions is in Hamheung, South Hamkyung.
Hamheung is considered as a chemical industry synthesis base within North Korea where companies related to the chemistry branch can be abundantly found.
The representative place is the 2.8 Vinyl Chemical Complexes. Besides this, there are Hamheung Chemical Industry College (in its 5th year), the Heungnam Fertilizer Factory, and the Heungnam Pharmaceutical Factory, which are the providers of North Korea’s top chemical researchers.
The reason why Hamheung became the main place of philopon production
The raw materials for the vinyl complex are limestones of the Ounpo Mine in Hongwon-gun and the raw materials of the Heungnam Fertilizer Factory are ramrods of Huhcheon-gun and emulsified steel of the Manduk Mine.
For this reason, many chemistry-related researchers and workers are residing in Hamheung. The problem is that after the food provisions were cut off, they turned their eyes to Philopon production when making a living became difficult.
They can produce high-quality philopon, if they just have a good laboratory and raw materials. In particular, outside demand for Philopon was explosive in early 2000, when there were no huge restraints in the North Korea-Japanese trade and when the North Korea-Chinese trade became active.
Hamheung citizen Choi Myung Gil (pseudonym) said, “In the initial stage, if the businessmen provided raw materials and funds to researchers, they made high-quality Philipon and kept half of the profit. Do poor researchers have any money? They made them because businessmen received orders from China and Japan and sold them. Also, there was nothing to fear because bribes kept the mouths of the National Security Agency and the Social Safety Agency shut. There is nothing one cannot do with money, so what kind of a researcher would crush such a money-making scheme?”
Mr. Choi said, “The cost of production of philopon is no more than 3,000 dollars per kilogram in North Korea. If one sells this, he or she can receive 6,000 dollars on the spot. Manufactured Philopon can be handed over to middlemen or if it directly enters Shinuiju and is given to dealers, it can bring in from 9,000 to 10,000 dollars.”
He said, “My friend, who worked as a researcher in the Hamheung Branch Laboratory, also lived poorly, but became wealthy overnight by making philopon. I also am benefitting from him. There are many people who have become wealthy in Hamheung by making philopon.”
Ultimately, when the North Korea-Chinese traders bring the raw materials from China, the Hamheung chemical researchers make the philopon and the merchants take these to China for sale. In this process, the Chinese crime syndicate have also intervened.