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“North Korea Raises Military Funds by Selling Drugs”

Posted August. 04, 2004 22:14,   


North Korea has annually earned $500 million during the recent one to two years from drug exports, and some of the funds were spent as military expenses, said the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its most recent report.

The Japanese newspaper Sankei Shinbun, quoting the U.S. CRS report titled “Drug Transactions and North Korea,” said on August 4 that North Korea was recently conspiring with criminal syndicates in Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea in order to avoid internationally strengthened controls. However, the strict control resulted in poor profitability, and the North therefore increased its transaction amounts on a large scale.

Accordingly, exports of drugs have extended to 70 percent of North Korea’s total export amount ($700 million) in 2000.

According to the CRS report, illegal drug transactions have been led by “Room 39 of the Labor Party,” whose distribution route is getting more complicated because it uses both governmental diplomatic lines and general freight transportation.

The earnings from this transaction were reportedly used for “loyalty expenses” for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, operation of national overseas facilities, purchasing the latest equipment for the military and intelligence bureau, and purchasing parts for the development of WMD.

Since the mid-1970s, North Korea has been nationally growing the opium poppy, which is the raw material of opium, and has started to export refined opium since the mid-1980s. Because the cultivated amount of opium in 1995 and 1996 was reduced due to heavy rains, it produced anti-hypnotic drugs such as philpones and smuggled them to Southeast Asian countries, according to the report.

Sankei Shinbun reported that Japan had confiscated a total of 3,300 kilograms of philpones for three years starting from 1999, of which one-third turned out to be from North Korea.

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com