Cablegate: 2007-2008 Rok and Dprk International Narcotics

Published: Wed 21 Nov 2007 12:19 AM
DE RUEHUL #3355/01 3250019
P 210019Z NOV 07
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) Per reftel, Embassy Seoul's submission for the
Republic of Korea (ROK) portion of the 2007-2008
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report is provided
at para 2. Input for the Democratic People's Republic of
Korea (DPRK) portion of the INCSR is provided at para 3
with the understanding that information on the DPRK's
narcotics-related activities is very limited.
2. (SBU) 2007-2008 INCSR input for the ROK:
I. Summary
Narcotics production or abuse is not a major problem in the
Republic of Korea (ROK). However, reports continue to
indicate that an undetermined quantity of narcotics is
smuggled through South Korea en route to the United States
and other countries. South Korea has become a
transshipment location for drug traffickers due to the
country's reputation for not having a drug abuse problem.
This combined with the fact that the South Korean port of
Pusan is one of the region's largest ports makes South
Korea an attractive location for illegal shipments coming
from countries which are more likely to attract a
contraband inspection upon arrival. The ROK is a party to
the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country
Drugs available in the ROK include methamphetamine, heroin,
cocaine, marijuana, and club drugs such as LSD and
Ecstasy. Methamphetamine continues to be the most widely
abused drug, while marijuana remains popular as well.
Heroin and cocaine are only sporadically seen in the ROK.
Club drugs such as Ecstasy and LSD continue to be popular
among college students. In early 2007, ROK authorities
discovered a mobile clandestine lab in South Korea that two
individuals had been using to produce small amounts of
methamphetamine from legally-obtained cold medicines. In
response, the South Korean government implemented stricter
controls on the purchase of over-the-counter medicines
containing ephedrine and psuedoephedrine, requiring
customer registration for quantities greater than 720 mg (a
three-day standard dose).
III. Country Actions Against Drugs 2007
Policy Initiatives. In 2007, the Korean Food and Drug
Administration (KFDA) continued to implement stronger
precursor chemical controls under amended legislation
approved in 2005. The KFDA continued its efforts to
educate companies and train its regulatory investigators on
the enhanced regulations and procedures for monitoring the
precursor chemical program. The KFDA also implemented in
2007 new regulatory oversight procedures to track and
address diversion of narcotics and psychotropic substances
from medical facilities and emerging patterns of abuse in
South Korea of additional substances, including gamma
butyrolactone (GBL), psychotropic-containing appetite
suppressants, and the veterinary anesthesia ketamine.
Law Enforcement Efforts. In the first nine months of 2007,
South Korean authorities arrested 878 persons for narcotics
use, 6,041 persons for psychotropic substance use, and 591
persons for marijuana use. ROK authorities seized 18 kg of
methamphetamine. Ecstasy seizures increased to 18,151
tablets from 319, approaching previous levels before 2004
(20,385 tablets). South Korean authorities seized 19.6 kg
of marijuana. (NOTE: All figures provided are from the
first nine months of the year. Total figures for 2007 are
not available.) South Koreans generally do not use heroin;
and cocaine is used only sporadically, with no indication
of its use increasing.
Corruption. There were no reports of corruption involving
narcotics law enforcement in the ROK in 2007. As a matter
of government policy, the ROK does not encourage or
facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic
or psychotropic or other controlled substances, or the
laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.
Agreements and Treaties. South Korea has extradition
treaties with 23 countries and mutual legal assistance
treaties in force with 18 countries, including the United
States. South Korea is a party to the 1988 UN Drug
Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic
Substances, and the 1961 UN Single Convention, as amended
by its 1972 Protocol. South Korea has signed, but has not
yet ratified, the UN Convention on Transnational Organized
Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption. Korean
authorities exchange information with international counter
narcotics agencies such as the United Nations Office on
Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Criminal
Police Organization (INTERPOL), and have placed Korean
National Police and/or Korea Customs Service attachQs in
Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, China, and the United States.
Cultivation/Production. Legal marijuana and hemp growth is
licensed by local Health Departments. The hemp is used to
produce fiber for traditional hand-made ceremonial funeral
clothing. Every year, each District Prosecutor's Office,
in conjunction with local governments, conducts
surveillance into suspected illicit marijuana growing areas
during planting or harvesting time periods to limit
possible illicit diversion. In the first six months of
2007, local authorities seized 274 marijuana plants, down
sinificantly from 3,783 in the first nine months of 2006.
Opium poppy production is illegal in South Korea, although
poppy continues to be grown in Kyonggi Province where
farmers have traditionally used the harvested plants as a
folk medicine to treat sick pigs and cows. Opium is not
normally processed from these plants for human
consumption. Korean authorities continue surveillance of
opium poppy-growing areas and seized 13,927 poppy plants in
the first six months of 2007.
Drug Flow/Transit. Few narcotic drugs originate in South
Korea. The exportation of narcotic substances is illegal
under South Korean law, and none are known to be exported.
However, the ROK does produce and export the precursor
chemicals acetone, toluene, and sulfuric acid.
Transshipment through South Korea's ports remains a serious
problem. ROK authorities recognize South Korea's
vulnerability as a transshipment nexus and have undertaken
greater efforts to educate shipping companies of the risk.
ROK authorities? ability to directly intercept the
suspected transshipment of narcotics and precursor
chemicals has been limited by the fact that the vast
majority of the shipping containers never enter ROK
territory. Nonetheless, the ROK continued its
international cooperation efforts to monitor and
investigate transshipment cases. In the previous year, ROK
authorities and the Seoul DEA Country Office completed a
modified controlled delivery of crystal methamphetamine
originally intended for transshipment through South Korea
from China to Guam, resulting in the dismantling of an
international crystal methamphetamine organization in the
U.S. and South Korea. Redoubled efforts by the Korean
Customs Service (KCS) have resulted in increased seizures
of methamphetamine and marijuana (12.4 kg and 7.7 kg
respectively in the first 6 months of 2007) transported by
arriving passengers and through postal services at South
Korea's ports of entry. Most methamphetamine smuggled into
South Korea comes from China. A majority of the LSD and
Ecstasy used in South Korea has been identified as coming
from North America or Europe. People living in
metropolitan areas are known to use marijuana originating
in South Africa and Nigeria, whereas those living in rural
areas appear to obtain their marijuana from locally
produced crops. ROK authorities also report increased
instances of marijuana use among the foreign population in
South Korea in recent years, a trend that is most likely
the result of increased law enforcement efforts targeting
this segment of the population.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Policy Initiatives and Programs. The U.S. Embassy's Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) Seoul Country Office and
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials
work closely with ROK narcotics law enforcement
authorities, and the DEA considers this working
relationship to be excellent.
Bilateral Cooperation. The DEA Seoul Country Office has
focused its 2007 efforts on international drug
interdiction, seizures of funds and assets related to
illicit narcotics trafficking, and the diversion of
precursor chemicals in South Korea and in the Far East
region. In 2007, the DEA Seoul Country Office organized,
coordinated, and hosted a one-week training seminar on
International Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering
Investigations. This training was co-hosted by the Korean
Supreme Prosecutors Office (KSPO) with 50 prosecutors,
investigators, and analysts from the Korea Financial
Intelligence Unit, KSPO, KCS, Korean National Intelligence
Service (KNIS), and the Korean National Police Agency
(KNPA) in attendance. The DEA Seoul Country Office
continues to share intelligence regarding the importation
of precursor chemicals into South Korea from the United
States and other Asian countries with the KFDA, KCS, KSPO,
and KNIS. DEA also works closely with the KSPO and KCS in
their activities to monitor airport and drug transshipment
methods and trends, including the use of international mail
by drug traffickers.
The Road Ahead. ROK authorities have expressed concern
that the popularity of South Korea as a transshipment nexus
may lead to greater volume of drugs entering Korean
markets. Korean authorities fear increased accessibility
and lower prices could stimulate domestic drug use in the
future. South Korean authorities also indicate a growing
concern about the importation of narcotics, psychotropic
drugs, and illegal medicines purchased via the internet,
predominately from web sites maintained in the United
States. In the first nine months of 2007, South Korean
authorities intercepted 341 internet-based drug purchases.
In response, Korean authorities established Memorandum of
Understanding with a number of Korean internet portal sites
to allow the KNPA to track and intercept such purchases.
The South Korean government is currently seeking further
international cooperation to better navigate the legal
complexities surrounding the prosecution of transnational
cyber crimes. The DEA Seoul Country Office will continue
its extensive training, mentoring, and operational
cooperation with ROK authorities.
3. (SBU) 2007-2008 INCSR input for the DPRK:
I. Summary
For decades, North Koreans have been arrested for
trafficking in narcotics and engaging in other criminal
behavior and illicit activity, including passing
counterfeit U.S. currency and trading in copyrighted
products. There were no confirmed instances of drug
trafficking involving North Korea or its nationals during
2007. Anecdotal evidence suggests that trafficking and
drug abuse in the DPRK and along its border with China
continues. There also continued to be press, industry and
law enforcement reporting of DPRK links to counterfeit
cigarette trafficking and counterfeit U.S. currency. The
Department is of the view that it is likely, but not
certain, that the North Korean government has sponsored
criminal activities in the past, including narcotics
production and trafficking, but notes that there is no
evidence for several years that it continues to traffic in
narcotics. The DPRK is not a party to the 1988 UN Drug
II. Status of Country
During 2007, there were numerous reports in the Japanese
media of drug trafficking along the DPRK/Chinese border.
According to these reports, Japanese criminal figures were
traveling to the DPRK-PRC border area to purchase
methamphetamine for smuggling back to Japan. The
Department is unable to confirm the accuracy of these
reports, and if true, the reports seem to involve
small-scale trafficking by individuals, not large-scale
organized trafficking managed by the state. There are
indications that drug use in the DPRK may be increasing. In
March 2006, the DPRK published a decree which warns
citizens, state factories and groups in the DPRK to "not
sell, buy, or use drugs illegally." According to the
decree, "Organizations, factories and groups should not
illegally produce or export drugs." Punishment is severe,
up to death, and the family members and shop mates of
offenders face collective responsibility and punishment
with the perpetrator. The DPRK also has an existing
antinarcotics law. The appearance of this new decree, its
draconian penalties, and the fact that it is signed by the
DPRK's National Security Council suggest that drug use and
trafficking within the DPRK itself has come to the
attention of authorities, and is viewed as a problem
requiring a serious response.
The "Pong-Su" incident in Australia in April 2003 renewed
worldwide attention to the possibility of DPRK
state-sponsorship of drug trafficking. The "Pong-Su", a
sea-going cargo vessel owned by a North Korean state
enterprise, was seized after delivering a large quantity of
pure heroin to accomplices on shore. The trial of the
"Pong-Su" captain and other senior officers, including a
DPRK Korean Workers' Party Political Secretary, concluded
in March 2006 with the captain and the others found not
guilty by an Australian jury. Four other defendants
associated with the incident pled guilty, and are serving
long prison sentences in Australia. These defendants
included three individuals who were apprehended in
possession of heroin brought to Australia aboard the
"Pong-Su", and another individual who came to Australia
aboard the "Pong-Su", and was apprehended on the same beach
where some of the heroin was found. The "Pong-Su" itself
was destroyed by Australian military aircraft, as property
forfeited to Australia because of its involvement in
narcotics trafficking.
In May 2006, Japanese prosecutors charged Woo Sii Yun, an
ethnic Korean and long-term resident of Japan, and
Katsuhiko Miyata, reputedly a Japanese gang member, with
involvement in several 2002 methamphetamine drug smuggling
incidents. The 2002 smuggling incidents involved several
instances of DPRK vessels leaving hundreds of kg of
methamphetamine drugs to float offshore for pick-up by
criminals in Japan. The police were led to Yun by the
discovery of his phone number stored in the memory of a
cell phone found aboard a DPRK patrol boat that sunk after
a gun battle with the Japanese Coast Guard in late 2001.
Alerted to Yun's possible involvement in narcotics
trafficking with DPRK accomplices, Japanese police
investigated his financial records and found several large
payments from criminal elements in Japan. Japanese
officials suspect these payments were for drugs from North
Korea. Japanese authorities also suspect the sunken DPRK
patrol boat of involvement in earlier instances of
methamphetamine trafficking to Japan. The charges against
Yun connect the DPRK more closely to methamphetamine
smuggling to Japan, as key lead information -- Yun's phone
number -- was found aboard a North Korean patrol vessel.
Department has no evidence to support a finding that drug
trafficking has stopped. It is also certainly possible
that DPRK entities previously involved in narcotics
trafficking recently have adopted a lower profile or better
operational security.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2007
DPRK officials have ascribed past instances of misconduct
by North Korean officials to the individuals involved, and
stated that these individuals would be punished in the DPRK
for their crimes. A 2004 edition of the North Korean Book
of Law contains the DPRK's Narcotics Control Law, and the
DPRK government in 2007 re-affirmed its intent to punish
drug traffickers severely, including with the death
penalty, by issuing a new special decree in March 2006,
signed by the DPRK's National Security Council. There is
no information available to the Department concerning
enforcement of these laws or other legal actions taken
against North Korean officials and citizens involved in
drug trafficking in DPRK, or upon the return of North Korea
citizens to the DPRK.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
The United States has made it clear to the DPRK that it has
concerns about the DPRK's involvement in a range of
criminal and illicit activities, including narcotics
trafficking, and that these activities must stop. The
United States thoroughly investigates all allegations of
criminal behavior impacting the United States by DPRK
citizens and entities, prosecutes cases under U.S.
jurisdiction to the fullest extent of the law, and urges
other countries to do the same.
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