“Tens of Thousands of Drug Addicts in Pyongyang”

[imText1]It has been reported from inside North Korea that due to the recent rapid increase of drug addicts among the North Korean residents, “Drug Eradication Groups” were formed by government order in the beginning of August and entered into a war against drugs.

In the past, “anti-socialism grupas”, which formed their names after the dates the order came down such as “6.24 Grupa” or “9.27 Grupa”, were created in order to control (crackdown) illegal traffickers, unemployed, sex traffickers and Kotjebi (wandering children). However, this is the first grupa formed to crackdown drug addicts. Grupa is the Russian word for “group”, which has the meaning of “task force team.”

Drug Eradication Groups First to be Sent to Pyongyang, Shinuiju, and Hamheung

According to the Chinese-Korean Mr. H, a businessman who does trade between China and North Korea, especially in the Shinuiju area, “Drug Eradication Grupas” are first sent to the three major cities of Pyongyang, Shinuiju, and Hamheung where the drug problem is known to be the most serious.”

“In Pyongyang, there are many high class and middle class drug consumers of “good quality drugs”, Shinuiju shares borders with China, thus it is much easier to obtain drugs from the outside, and Hamheung is the area known for drug traffic. This is why the three cities became the targets for crackdown,” explained Mr. H.

According to another report by a resident from Shinuiju, Mr. K, there are about 50 people in each grupa, and just as previous grupas, the members mainly consist of the patrols and officials from the People’s Security Department and the police, but they also include former drug addicts who have become cooperators. The following is the transcription of a phone interview with Mr. K.

– Are there so many drug addicts in North Korea?

“It is estimated that only in Shinuiju, there are about 1,000 to 2,000 drug addicts. In Pyongyang, the most populated city with two million residents where many high class or rich class people live, there must be more drug addicts. I am sure there are a couple tens of thousands.”

– What kind of drug is circulated and what is its price?

“Usually they call it ice. There are many kinds such as “Ice,” “Bullets,” “Denda” and “Doridori.” I took bullets a few times, and it was about $1 per pill. Ice was about three to five times more expensive than bullets, in some cases even ten times more expensive. Doridori costs about $5 (per pill). Denda is cheaper than Doridori.”

The drugs circulating in North Korea are mostly from the family of heroin, and because of the white powder, people in North Korea use the slang “ice.”

Once Revealed Sent to Detention Camp, Eradication Unlikely Due to Corruption

They import amphetamines (which is the main ingredient) from China and manufacture it into philopon (chemical name: methamphetamine) and export them back to outside world; this is how drugs circulate in North Korea. The philopon pills not yet manufactured stimulants are circulated in pills called bullets or in powder, which has greater effects, called “ice.”

”Doridori” (ectasy) is also called the same in South Korea, and is known to have come from Netherlands,” said Mr. K. It is presumed that “denda” is another name for ecstasy in China.

– Are there people arrested for having consumed drugs?

“On July 29, there was a public trial in Shinuiju. There were as many as 65 accused. Their crimes were drug, circulation of CD and human trafficking. Among them, 30 people were not from Shinuiju, and some were from South Pyongan Province. They must be people who came to Shinuiju to find drugs and got arrested.”

– How are they punished?

“100% are sent to the detention camp. Before, drug addicts use to be sent to forced labor camps, be confined for a month or two to get off drug. Now they sentence them for several years and send all of them to detention camps. They increased the level of punishment.”

– How effective do you think the “Drug Eradication Grupa” will be?

“Temporarily the number of drug use will decrease, but eradication will be difficult because it is deeply connected to high class, rich class people. Since there is not much to enjoy in North Korea except drugs and in many cases they take drugs instead of medicine due to the lack of medicine. I heard that if they succeed in eradication in major cities, then they will be sent to small cities too.”

“Although Drug Eradication Grupa became active and restrictions in the Customs offices strengthened, corruption is so bad in North Korea that you can even bring drugs if you hand them a couple of bills. Unless the chain of corruption is broken, eradication of drugs is unlikely.”

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