Government unveils new strategy to deal with illegal drug use

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Government unveils new strategy to deal with illegal drug use

Drinks containing illegal drugs that were intended for distribution to students in a cram school neighborhood in Seoul's Gangnam District are shown at a press briefing by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's drug crime investigative unit on Monday morning. [YONHAP]

Drinks containing illegal drugs that were intended for distribution to students in a cram school neighborhood in Seoul's Gangnam District are shown at a press briefing by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's drug crime investigative unit on Monday morning. [YONHAP]

 
The government on Tuesday announced a wide-ranging strategy to combat illegal drug use and distribution and strengthen anti-drug education as President Yoon Suk Yeol called reports of illicit drugs being distributed to teenagers "most shocking."
 
Under the plan announced by the Office of Government Policy Coordination, an agency under the control of the Prime Minister’s Office, a new Drug Crime Special Investigative Headquarters staffed by 840 prosecutors, police officers, and customs agents will be established under the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to track, intercept and punish illegal drug purchases and distribution within the country.
 
The unit will also be responsible for monitoring online searches for drugs and blocking access to advertisements for drugs within 24 hours after they are posted, with a particular focus on combatting increasing drug-related criminal activity on social media targeting young people.
 
In comments made during a Tuesday Cabinet meeting, President Yoon said that it was “most shocking that drugs have been widely distributed among teenagers who are the future generation,” referring to a case in which several students in a southern Seoul cram school neighborhood were handed free drinks that purportedly enhanced memory and concentration, but actually contained illicit substances.
 
The students' parents were later blackmailed for money so that their children's inadvertent consumption of narcotics would not be reported to the police.
 
The president urged a “collective response” by the government in coordination with the country’s law enforcement “to root out drug crimes that destroy the nation.”
 
The office also said it will introduce a mandatory annual 10-hour educational course against illegal drug use at all elementary, middle and high schools and request stronger sentences for repeat drug offenders and smugglers.
 
A dedicated drug crime investigative bureau will also be re-established within the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. The bureau was merged with another department dealing with organized crime under the former Moon Jae-in administration.
 
Minister for Government Policy Coordination Bang Moon-kyu said at a press conference on Tuesday that the new unit’s work “will be focused on protecting people from drugs and maintaining a healthy society with concerted government action.”
 
The new strategy follows a set of measures designed to combat drug-related crime announced last November.
 
Law enforcement has arrested 5,809 drug offenders in the four months since the last set of measures was announced.
 
According to figures released by the government, law enforcement seized a total of 306.8 kilograms (676 pounds) of illegal drugs, up 55 percent from the same period a year earlier.
 
The number of people who entered drug-related rehabilitation programs during the same period increased 150 percent to 1,071, the government said.
 

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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