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.
Part of complete coverage on
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0851 GMT (1651 HKT)
North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system," the country declares.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 0135 GMT (0935 HKT)
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0852 GMT (1652 HKT)
The crowd cheers as the stars make their way to the ring for first pro-wrestling bout North Korea has seen in almost 20 years.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0137 GMT (0937 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley makes a rare live report from reclusive North Korea.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley is given a rare look inside North Korea and tours Kim Jong Un's pet project, a waterpark.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
North Korea rejected an invitation to the Pope's Mass in Seoul. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 2338 GMT (0738 HKT)
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 2344 GMT (0744 HKT)
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 0125 GMT (0925 HKT)
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Today's five most popular stories