North Korea in grip of drugs epidemic, report claims
August 30, 2013 -- Updated 1040 GMT (1840 HKT)
A report claims North Korea has a drug epidemic since China stepped up security on its border
- Report claims North Korean drug producers are finding a ready market closer to home
- North Korea Review says as many as two-thirds of North Koreans have used methamphetamines
- Author says interviewees told her the border regions of North Korea are awash with drugs
- Interviewees say methamphetamines used as a palliative in lieu of prescription drugs
Hong Kong (CNN) -- North Korea's sanction-hit regime has long been accused of drug trafficking as a source of hard currency, but a new report claims drug producers are finding a ready market closer to home and that as many as two-thirds of North Koreans have used methamphetamines.
According to a report in the Spring 2013 edition of the journal North Korean Review, stricter China border controls have forced methamphetamine producers in the north to seek a local market for "ice" (known locally as "bingdu").
The report's co-author, Professor Kim Seok Hyang, of South Korea's Ewha Woman's University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that interviews with North Korean defectors suggested that the country is in the grip of an "ice" plague.
North Korean footballer big in Japan
North Korea defectors speak at UN inquiry
Koreans push for family reunions
UN hears story of North Korean torture
"Some informants are saying almost every adult in North Korea around the China-North Korea border are using methamphetamine," she said, adding that the drug was often used as a palliative in place of hard-to-obtain prescription medicine.
"Actually, the hospital medical system (has) stopped for such a long time, so they need something to cure their pain ... physical pain," she said. "But once they get addicted to methamphetamine, there's no way for them to get out of it."
The North Korean regime releases no official figures on drug addiction and Professor Kim said the scale of the problem could not be statistically verified.
"But almost everybody in my interview is saying so, especially those who left North Korea after 2009," she told the ABC.
She said that interviewees told her the drug could be ordered casually and easily in restaurants, and that it had become difficult to control since it had become the drug of choice of high-ranking officials and the police.
While readily available, however, informants told her it was still expensive and did not indicate that North Korea had a greater level of disposable income for recreational drug use.
"Using methamphetamine does not mean they have enough money to dispose (of)," Professor Kim said. "They had to get it with all the money they have."
North Korea has been widely rumored to manufacture high-grade methamphetamine as a state policy for generating hard cash.
Estimates on how much North Korea generates through illegal activities such as arms trades, drug sales and counterfeiting are speculative, but reports say Pyongyang's shadowy "Room 39" directs illicit trade that generates millions for the nation's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0117 GMT (0917 HKT)
Sources tell Evan Perez that U.S. investigators have determined North Korea was in fact behind the Sony hacking.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Obama says people should "go to the movies" without fear, despite hackers' threats against venues that show "The Interview".
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 0035 GMT (0835 HKT)
CNN's Brian Todd reports on the hacking of Sony Pictures and whether North Korea could be behind it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
As the U.S. gets ready to blame the Sony hack on North Korea, a troublesome question is emerging: Just what is North Korea capable of?
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
A retired Silicon Valley executive and Korean War veteran was hauled off his plane at Pyongyang in 2013. Here's what happened next.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
A recent defector from North Korea tells of the harrowing escape into China via Chinese 'snakehead' gangs.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
CNN's Amara Walker speaks to a former North Korean prison guard about the abuses he witnessed and was forced to enact on prisoners.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0559 GMT (1359 HKT)
The chief of the Commission of Inquiry into North Korea's human rights says the world can no longer plead ignorance to the regime's offenses.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Kim Jong Il's former bodyguard tells of the beatings and starvation he endured while imprisoned in the country's most notorious prison camp.
November 10, 2014 -- Updated 1834 GMT (0234 HKT)
Christian Whiton argues "putting the United States at the same table as lawless thugs isn't just morally repugnant -- it's ineffective".
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 0543 GMT (1343 HKT)
Despite tense relations, China benefits from Kim Jong Un's rule in North Korea. David McKenzie explains.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0851 GMT (1651 HKT)
North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system" and citizens have "priceless political integrity", the country declared.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0852 GMT (1652 HKT)
Pro-wrestling, country clubs and theme parks are just some of the attractions North Korea wants you to see on a tightly controlled tour of the country.