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South Korea raises concerns about drug smuggling in new report

South Korea raises concerns about drug smuggling in new report
South Korea’s International Crime Information Center said that more than 100 pounds of cocaine was seized from a shipping container in Busan last year. File Photo by Yonhap News Agency

Aug. 19 (UPI) -- South Korea's spy agency issued a warning against narcotics traffickers in a report Friday that outlined cases of drug crimes in the country.

The National Intelligence Service's International Crime Information Center said in its International Crime Risk Alert Service report that more drug trafficking organizations with an international presence are using South Korea as a transit point, Newsis reported.

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Traffickers are using air cargo and commercial ships to smuggle in drugs, the agency said.

Last August, South Korean authorities found more than 100 pounds of cocaine hidden inside a food-grade shipping container for frozen foods. The ship had originated from Central America and was checked at the port city of Busan, the report said.

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Organized crime rings could be facilitating the trade in Asia.

In 2018, authorities seized more than 240 pounds of methamphetamines smuggled inside screw machines. The drug trade was being handled by Taiwan's Bamboo Union, Japan's Yakuza and domestic South Korean crime groups, according to Newsis.

Individuals also are illegally importing drugs. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, international express mail services have been used to smuggle drugs, sometimes hidden inside food items, like peanuts, the report said.

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More illegal drug transactions are taking place online, including on social media platforms and the global dark web. The spy agency said a South Korean citizen in their 30s was arrested for growing marijuana in their residence in March, and attempting to sell the drug online via the dark web.

South Korea's strict drug laws prohibit the use of recreational marijuana.

In 2017, K-pop star T.O.P. was charged for possession and use of marijuana. The singer was sentenced to 10 years in prison suspended for two years, according to the Korea Herald.

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