Drug smuggling to Korea on the rise

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Drug smuggling to Korea on the rise


An official with the Korea Customs Service holds walnuts yesterday, filled with illegal drugs. [NEWSIS]

Korea’s illicit drug trade is at an all-time high, with a record amount of drugs smuggled into the country in the first half of this year, according to a report released yesterday by the Korea Customs Service.

According to the report, law enforcement officials seized 51.8 kilograms (114.2 pounds) of illicit drugs worth 119.5 billion won ($116.5 million) from January through June.

The amount was a record high and represented a 61 percent increase compared to the previous period. The number of detected drug-smuggling cases stood at 153, a 20 percent jump from the same period in 2013.

The authorities said that methamphetamine accounted for the largest share (40.4 kilograms) of drugs seized, followed by synthetic cannabis (9.2 kilograms) and pure marijuana (1.8 kilograms). The amount of methamphetamine smuggled within the past six months has already surpassed the total for all of 2013.

Officials attributed the surge, in part, to one case in which smugglers were caught with a haul of meth that was stored in a cargo ship from China. The shipment contained 6.1 kilograms of meth with a street value of 18.3 billion won.

The customs office uncovered the case on June 1 in Gohyeon Port in Geoje, South Gyeongsang. It also pointed to the increasing use of international mail in delivering illegal drugs, as more Koreans buy illegal substances from foreign websites and have them delivered by regular post straight to their doors.

The number of international parcels that contain drugs increased to 108 during the first half of this year from 74 over the same period last year.

Korea has a reputation as a country that is largely free of narcotics, and drug trafficking is generally considered a minor concern. However, the nation has seen a rise in drug trafficking cases in recent years. The number of drug-smuggling cases uncovered by the Korea Customs Service rose from 150 in 2009 to 232 in 2012.

Acknowledging the recent rise, the agency vowed to root out illicit drug trading. “We will strengthen the monitoring of international parcels and increase the number of drug-detection dogs at ports and the international airports,” the customs office said.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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