September 26, 2020

DPRK Still Implicit in Narcotics Production and Trade?

North Korea is a notoriously complicated country for analysts, government, military personnel and academics to understand. The subject of narcotics is no different. An official U.S. State Department report on North Korea stated that in 2010, there were “no confirmed instances of large-scale drug trafficking involving the DPRK state or its nationals were reported in 2010.” The same report, however, also stated that the Chinese government had initiated a boat patrol of the Tumen River, which runs along the Sino-Korean border, in response to narcotics smuggling. Reports in North Korean daily news publications or websites such as Good Friends North Korea Today or Daily NK publish stories with information that can differ greatly between individual reports. So what exactly do we know?

The South Korean government is devoting attention to the issue of narcotics, although the adequacy of this attention is contested. In February, Saenuri Representative Yoon Sang-Hyuns' called for Seoul and Beijing to “cut off these North Korean crimes at the source.” Although Yoon quoted specific amounts of narcotics from China that were seized, no details regarding the amount that was actually produced in North Korea could be given.