1 in 3 defectors in prison convicted of drug crimes
More than one in three North Korean defectors put behind bars in South Korea were convicted of drug crimes, a study showed yesterday.
Out of 48 inmates from the North as of last year, 35 percent - or 17 people - were convicted of drug-related offenses, followed by 12 assaults, 10 murders and the rest other petty crimes, according to a paper by the Korean Institute of Criminology (KIC).
The study revealed that most of the drug traffickers did not have stable jobs after defecting here, earning about 700,000 won ($634) a month, below the minimum monthly wage of about 900,000 won.
On average, they stayed more than 42 months in a third country, usually China, before entering the South.
The number of North Korean defectors in the South exceeded 20,000 as of November. Despite three months of resettlement training and some financial aid, many of them have trouble adapting to life in the South.
Jang Jun-oh, author of the KIC paper, attributed their longer stay in the border region between North Korea and China to their drug trafficking activities, as they began dealing before entering the nation.
“Since the annual number of North Korean defectors surpassed 1,000 in the 2000, incidents of drug trafficking have increased and become more systematic,” Jang said.
The defectors delivered or sold drugs through their immediate family members and drug trafficking rings as well as other relatives or acquaintances in the North. In some cases, they directly smuggled drugs from the North, Jang said.
Among the 17 inmates, 16 said they got involved in the drug trade through the defector network and did it to help support their families here or left behind in the North.