YANJI, China, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- While North Korea's government has gone out of the drug business, individuals make methamphetamine and sell it beyond the nation's borders, a researcher says.
Homemade meth from North Korea, known as "orum," or "ice," was found in 16 drug arrests in China since 2008 in quantities of up to 22 pounds, Harvard University researcher Sheena Chestnut Greitens said.
"Meth is a product you can make in bathtubs or trailers. You have a wide range of people involved in production and trafficking," she said.
Government drug manufacturing operations ceased after 1999, and with analgesics scare, North Korea has been relatively easy about homemade narcotics and their use, with little stigma attached to using opium paste, marijuana or "ice," the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
Interviewed in Nanji, China, Park Kyung Ok, 44, explained her role as a drug dealer after a North Korean coal mine where she worked stopped paying salaries. She bought grams of meth in a nearby city, Chongjin, and sold it in her hometown of Hoeryong, earning "just enough money that I could buy rice to eat and coal for heating."
Meth is also ideal for entrepreneurs who cook the drug in kitchen laboratories, then sell it to be exported by smugglers who also traffic in cellphones, DVDs and cash. Last month, five alleged drug smugglers were extradited from Thailand to the United States to face charges of smuggling 220 pounds of crystal meth, and told a federal court in New York the drug originated in North Korea, the newspaper said.