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TRUE ENEMY: North Korea methamphetamine trade fueled by U.S. demand

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It would appear to be a contradiction: North Korea, a notoriously repressive dictatorship providing a cheap form of recreational drug abused in the free world. Indeed, it solidifies North Korea as a TRUE enemy of the United States - as demand for methamphetamine in the U.S. supports its production there.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The methamphetamine comes in the form of "Ice," which is a powerful drug, usually smoked that delivers a near-immediate jolt to the brain. Made for export in North Korea, it is ferried through China and then distributed around the world.

Some North Koreans are avid consumers of crystal meth too. Two North Korean refugees told reporters that in a country suffering from poverty and food shortages, the drug is a much-needed appetite suppressant.

Ice was widely available on the black market near the border North Korea shares with China. Popular among private traders and their families, there is little trouble in selling it in outdoor markets with bribes made to the authorities.

"Life was hard, people were hungry, and we needed the drug," one female North Korean defector in Seoul says. The woman admitted to smoking Ice multiple times, once giving smaller doses to her two boys, aged 11 and 13.

"My family was a little wealthier, so we could afford it, but even poor people did it too," she said. "It was a popular drug."

Various types of amphetamines enjoy popularity in developing countries in Asia and Africa, where workers need energy to work long hours on scant meals. Even South Korea, which leaped from poverty to riches in about 30 years, was once a big-time producer of crystal meth.

Narcotic sales were once a fund-raising arm for the cash-strapped government, experts say. North Korean embassies trafficked in hashish as far back as the 1970s.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, however, the economy collapsed, resulting in famine. By the mid-2000s, a nascent class of merchants flourished, peddling just about any illegal product you could imagine.

"These days, more and more freelancers and professional drug dealers are taking over this murky operation of delivering the drugs produced in North Korea, packed in Northeast China, and smuggled via South East Asia to Australia, America and Europe," Leonid Petrov, a North Korea watcher at the Australian National University in Canberra says.

"Many North Korean scientists began to moonshine in private laboratories producing the similar high-quality product for domestic consumption and illicit export," he said.  profitable.

North Koreans synthesize the drugs in factories near the southern banks of the Tumen River that marks part of the boundary between North Korea, China and Russia, which is a departure from a lucrative narcotics trade that no that long ago was mostly state-run.

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