North Korea, a country that doesn’t have enough problems already, is now contending with rampant meth use in its population. This according to US drug officials and reported recently in Vice. North Korean meth is some of the strongest out there, ringing in at 96-98%.
The North Korean Government has been manufacturing drugs as a means of revenue since the 1970s. They defaulted on their international loans in 1976 and the same year hundreds of North Korean police and embassy officials were found to be smuggling drugs or cigarettes.
North Korea lost its communist financers with the fall of the USSR and this lead to a famine during which over a million people died. The demand for farmers to grow opium poppies arose and was the only way for many to make ends meet. After the end of the famine in the early 2000, the demand for a new, more high-tech drug, methamphetamine arose and production began in full force.
With a high demand for this North Korean meth, gangsters were lining up to distribute the drug through China, Japan and the US.
North Korean embassy officials continue to be kicked out their host countries for smuggling cigarettes, meth and counterfeit money. It seems to many officials that this is a method of the country and embassies ‘self-financing’.
Since 2005, North Korea has scaled back the manufacture of meth, with many labs closing down. It’s believed that they were moved to new locations, but only North Koreans can get their hands on North Korean meth now. A lot of talented cooks are still working, strictly outside of government employment, but the political elite are still getting their hands on the product. The nature of the totalitarian regime of North Korean government means that there is likely no way that government officials don’t know about the meth being cooked.
Understandably, meth use has skyrocketed in North Korea. In Pyongyang restaurants, the social elites offer each other a “nose” after dinner, the middle class use meth as a home remedy and the poor take it stifle their hunger. Meth is so common that people are generally unconcerned or bothered about its use.
While meth is no longer exported, Cocaine is still regularly packaged and taken across borders. The cocaine problem in North Korea however, has nothing on the Meth Problem. The North Korean drug trade was born out of economic necessity, but has expanded to the point where it is difficult to find someone who isn’t addicted.