More than 30 percent of North Koreans use meth, opium

Drug addiction is spreading in North Korea and narcotics are easy to come by, a South Korean researcher said.

By Elizabeth Shim

SEOUL, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Drug addiction is a serious problem in North Korea, according to South Korean researchers and North Korean defectors who spoke of their experiences with addiction on Thursday.

Lee Kwan-hyung, a researcher from Seoul-based Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, said during a seminar about 30 percent of North Koreans use drugs, which have become a part of "everyday life," Yonhap reported.


Lee, who has investigated drug use in North Korea, conducted in-depth interviews that led him to conclude drugs are a common part of life and that the environment in the country allows "anyone to easily access drugs."

"It would not be extreme to say at least 30 percent of North Koreans use methamphetamines, opium and other drugs," Lee said, referring to his survey of North Koreans who defected after 2010.

In 2015 the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report stated methamphetamines, or crystal meth, continue to dominate North Korea's illicit drug market.

The report stated it is not clear whether the North Korean government is directly involved in drug production, but North Korean officials have in the past been apprehended for drug sales.


The South Korean research indicates drugs are making their way into the hands of ordinary North Koreans.

Lee quoted a refugee from Pyongyang as saying, "unless you're a simple organism you do drugs," and a Hyesan refugee who said, "drugs are easier to come by than rice," while highlighting the widespread availability of addictive substances in the country.

During the seminar on Thursday an anonymous North Korean defector spoke of addiction and being unable to quit drug use for 10 years before coming to South Korea.

Latest Headlines