World: Crystal Meth Is North Korea’s Trendiest Lunar New Year’s Gift - PressFrom - US
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WorldCrystal Meth Is North Korea’s Trendiest Lunar New Year’s Gift

15:16  12 february  2019
15:16  12 february  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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During the lunar new year holiday, one of the two most important holidays on the Korean peninsula, Koreans visit their family members bearing gifts . In South Korea the gifts might be cans of spam, fruit or other edible items that can be shared. Meanwhile, young North Koreans instead share meth and

Crystal meth and other illcit drugs are popular gifts for the Lunar New Year holiday in North Korea , which has a massive drug problem. According to Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Friday, South Koreans prefer to shower each other with New Year gifts of food including fruit and cans of Spam.

Crystal Meth Is North Korea’s Trendiest Lunar New Year’s Gift© Jon Chol Jin/Associated Press North Koreans visiting the statues of two former leaders, Kim Il-sung, left, and Kim Jong-il, his son, in Pyongyang last week. In the 1990s, North Korea’s cash-poor government began manufacturing methamphetamine for export.

HONG KONG — Like many across East Asia, North Koreans have been exchanging presents this month to celebrate the Lunar New Year. But rather than tea, sweets or clothing, some in this impoverished, isolated country are giving the gift of crystal meth.

The gifting and use of methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant that has been blamed in health and addiction crises around the world, is said to be a well-established custom in North Korea. Users are said to inject or snort the drug as casually as they might smoke a cigarette, with little awareness of its addictive qualities or destructive effects.

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During the lunar new year holiday, one of the two most important holidays on the Korean peninsula, Koreans visit their family members bearing gifts . In South Korea the gifts might be cans of spam, fruit or other edible items that can be shared. Meanwhile, young North Koreans instead share meth and

Read the latest North Korea headlines, on NewsNow: the one-stop shop for North Korea news. North Koreans Give Crystal Meth as Lunar New Year Gifts Radio Free Asia15:05 8-Feb-19.

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“Meth, until recently, has been largely seen inside North Korea as a kind of very powerful energy drug — something like Red Bull, amplified,” said Andrei Lankov, an expert on the North at Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea, who directs the news site NK News. That misconception, he said, highlighted a “significant underestimation” within the country of the general risks of drug abuse.

Methamphetamine was first introduced to the Korean Peninsula during the Japanese colonial period, in the early 20th century, and defectors have reported that the North Korean military provided methamphetamine to its soldiers in the years after World War II. Since the 1970s, many North Korean diplomats have been arrested abroad for drug smuggling.

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Read the latest North Korea headlines, on NewsNow: the one-stop shop for North Korea news. Report: North Koreans Give Each Other Crystal Meth for Lunar New Year Breitbart23:05 8-Feb-19.

Korean New Year (Hangul: 설날; RR: Seollal; MR: Sŏllal) is the first day of the Korean lunar calendar. It is one of the most important traditional Korean holidays.

In the 1990s, the North’s cash-poor government began manufacturing meth for export, about two decades after it began sponsoring local opium cultivation and the production of opiates, according to a 2014 study by Sheena Chestnut Greitens, a University of Missouri political scientist. Finished meth was typically sent across the northern border into China, or handed off at sea to criminal organizations like Chinese triads or the Japanese yakuza.

But around the mid-2000s, meth production that was “clearly sponsored and controlled” by the government began to decline, the study said. That left a surplus of people with the skills to manufacture meth, many of whom created small-scale meth labs and began selling to the local market.

Amid a chronic lack of health care supplies and medical treatments in North Korea, many people take opiates and amphetamine-type stimulants as perceived medicinal alternatives, Ms. Greitens, the political scientist, said in an email. “Methamphetamine is highly addictive, so it’s easy for casual users to develop more dependence and addiction over relatively short amounts of time,” she said.

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The alleged illicit activities of the North Korean state include manufacture and sale of illegal drugs, the manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods, human trafficking, arms trafficking, wildlife trafficking

North Korea ’ s socialist regime used to make some of its much needed foreign currency by selling crystal meth – a state-sanctioned drug trade In reference to methamphetamines produced under the North Korean Regime, a confidential source told the DEA, “People in New York, they went crazy

The drug’s popularity in North Korea as a Lunar New Year gift was first reported last week by Radio Free Asia, a United States government-funded news outlet. Radio Free Asia quoted several anonymous sources as saying that the custom was especially popular among the country’s young people.

The Radio Free Asia report could not be independently verified, and the North Korean government has long denied that its citizens use or produce methamphetamine. “The illegal use, trafficking and production of drugs which reduce human being into mental cripples do not exist in the D.P.R.K.,” the North’s state-run news agency said in 2013, referring to the initials of the country’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

But experts say the custom of gifting crystal meth in North Korea — where it is called “pingdu,” the Korean transliteration of the Chinese word for “ice drug” — is essentially an open secret.

Teodora Gyupchanova, a researcher at the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights in Seoul, said that many defectors interviewed by the center in 2016 spoke of crystal meth as a popular gift for birthdays, graduations and “holidays such as the Lunar New Year.”

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Lunar New Year is the beginning of a year whose months are coordinated by the cycles of the moon. The whole year may account to a purely lunar calendar or a lunisolar calendar.

Seollal celebrates the lunar New Year . Gift giving has become a major aspect of the Seollal holiday in South Korea . After finishing a meal during the lunar New Year in Korea , it is customary for the entire family to pay respect to ancestors with a brief prayer.

Mr. Lankov, of NK News, said stories of crystal meth being given as a present were very common when he and a co-author conducted interviews with defectors for a 2013 study on North Korean drug use. He added that defectors had made fewer references to crystal meth in the years since, possibly indicating a decline in overall use.

While meth is illegal in North Korea, like other private economic activities there, the drug has effectively become legal “because officials take bribes to look the other way, and because the state indirectly benefits from a food chain of bribes that goes all the way to the top,” said Justin Hastings, a political scientist at the University of Sydney in Australia who has studied North Korean drug trafficking networks.

“Over time, this has resulted in a culture where people are willing to take risks to make money, and official state prohibition has little meaning,” Mr. Hastings said.

Greg Scarlatoiu, the executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a Washington think tank, said that the regime of Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, was currently focusing all its resources on priorities such as developing missiles and giving domestic elites access to luxury goods.

“For as long as drug use does not pose a challenge to the regime, but instead dulls the wills and minds of the North Korean people, the government tacitly allows it to go on, despite the tremendous mental and physical health challenges it creates,” Mr. Scarlatoiu said.

Mr. Lankov said that there were government propaganda posters about drug use displayed inside North Korea.

“They basically did not say, ‘Drugs are bad for you,’” he said of the posters. “They basically said, ‘Drugs are bad for the country.’”

$13 million worth of meth found in trailer with frozen strawberries.
A truck driver hauling frozen strawberries from Mexico into the United States is in custody after customs officers at a Texas port found nearly $13 million worth of methamphetamine hidden in the trailer. In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said officers working at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge cargo facility Saturday encountered a 42-year-old male Mexican citizen with a commercial shipment of frozen strawberries arriving from Mexico. CBP referred the shipment for further inspection and discovered 350 packages of alleged methamphetamine concealed within the trailer.

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