DPRK needs drug prevention and treatment

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DPRK needs drug prevention and treatment


Lee Hyeon-seo

An alarming number of North Koreans, most of whom struggle to survive, are continuously becoming trapped in the country’s growing drug epidemic. Police and drug enforcement agencies around the world have struggled for decades to stop the DPRK’s drug smuggling operations, but concerned members of the international community must pay more attention to the devastating effects that drugs like meth and opium are having on the North Korean populace.

More and more North Koreans are becoming drug addicts, yet they generally know very little about how to prevent and overcome drug addiction because they lack proper treatment centers, professional care and preventive drug awareness campaigns. Moreover, although drug prevention and treatment are seriously lacking, they are unlikely to be promoted by the state, since “policemen and other high ranking officials … are the ones who are fond of methamphetamines,” according to Professor Kim Seok-hyang of Ewha Womans University. The international community needs to take the lead in establishing rehab centers in the country and provide information about drug prevention and treatment.

Unsurprisingly, the North Korean government is largely to blame for the country’s drug problems. For many years, drugs were produced in state-run facilities and then exported abroad for hard currency. In the past, Kim Jong-il even tried to make the production and distribution of poppies a source of national income, but after the breakdown of the public distribution system, some unemployed and desperate North Korean scientists used their skills (and equipment) to produce drugs like meth. As China eventually began to crack down on North Korean drug smuggling while drug-production techniques spread in the DPRK, drugs started to become more widely available, and consumed, in North Korean society.

Other North Koreans have said that offering a visiting friend some meth or other drug is becoming a more common practice, like offering a cup of tea. More recently, a newer drug called “amidon” has begun to plague the North Korean people. The drug, similar to methadone, is so addictive that people are selling their goods cheaply in the market for quick drug money, according to a source for DailyNK.

The North Korean people are already struggling enough without having to deal with the horrible effects of drug addiction. Thanks to modern science and technology, we can use many available tools to help them. Primarily, we should gather the knowledge about dangerous drugs like meth and spread the information to the North Korean people. They must know that drugs will only make their problems worse. Moreover, the international community should make an effort to establish drug treatment centers in the DPRK. Even though this may seem unlikely, the DPRK government has allowed foreign NGOs to care for those less fortunate in society (such as the disabled), so it would not be impossible.

It is depressing that the long list of problems facing the North Korean people are getting worse by the drug use. Most of the users are ignorant of the dangers of drugs, and extremely vulnerable once they become addicted since they have nowhere to turn. Ultimately, the international community must help the North to tackle its drug problems. With awareness campaigns, information and proper treatment, the international community can help get the DPRK’s drug epidemic under control.

By Lee Hyeon-seo, Student at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and a North Korean refugee living in Seoul

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