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Prosecutors crack down on seven int`l drug rings

Posted February. 21, 2001 19:08,   


Korea is serving as a way station for drug smuggling operations linking China, Southeast Asia, Africa and Japan, according to prosecutors.

The Seoul District Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday that it uncovered seven international drug trafficking rings with 195 members between August and December last year. The prosecution indicted 168 of them and seized 55kg of narcotics such as marijuana and philopon worth about 28 billion won. The quantity represents 600,000 single drug doses.

According to prosecutors, most of the traffickers purchased the drugs at low prices in China, Thailand, the Philippines and South Africa and brought them into Korea or to Japan via Korea.

Last December, a 33-year-old Zambian man identified only as Leonard and a 31-year-old Mozambique native identified as Penias were arrested in Itaewon, central Seoul, after trying to send a suitcase carrying 3.3kg of marijuana to Japan by international express.

Prosecutors said the two men purchased the narcotics in Southeast Asia and sent it to Korea by international express before their arrival in Korea and then attempted to send it on to Japan. The drug traffickers tried to take advantage of much simplified customs procedures aimed at making air travel more convenient.

Last July, a Korean businessman was also caught after he bought 3kg of philopon in China and smuggled it into Korea in a silicon container ahead of delivering it to a Japanese crime ring. He was accused of accepting 5 million yen from the ring to purchase the drug, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, the prosecution cracked down on 5,019 drug traffickers in the first six months of last year, up 5.8 percent from the same period in 1999. The number of female drug traffickers sharply increased from 323 in 1995 to 1,570 in 1999, accounting for 21 percent of the total, up from 11.7 percent. Foreign drug traffickers also nearly doubled last year from a year earlier, prosecutors said.

Lee Myoung-Gun gun43@donga.com