Watch out, Walter White!
February 8, 2012 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Spreading Meth Across the China-North Korea Border

Though the North Korean government would never admit to outsiders that there is a drug problem in the country, the Daily NK has filed many reports over the past several years about this phenomena, suggesting that “bingdu” (what the North Koreans call meth) is available practically at epidemic levels inside the DPRK....

middle schoolers in Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, were caught producing bingdu; that teenagers give it as a birthday gift to peers...

Quotes from defectors and sources who spoke to the Daily NK report that anywhere from ¼ to ½ of the population in North Korea are using the drug....
posted by astapasta24 (15 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Article from May last year on bingdu usage.
posted by arcticseal at 8:10 PM on February 8, 2012

Probably distracts them from their crippling famine. Meth addicts often forego eating.
posted by Renoroc at 8:25 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interesting articles, but then I'm always a sucker for North Korea stuff. Such a mysterious place (and not in the sense of, like, Mysteries of the Orient, but more like WTF is even GOING ON mystery)
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:26 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

14 to 1/2? I doubt that said drug can accrue that many users out of a total population of 24M. That a certain minor population does have an affinity for speed is a fact, yes, but to somehow draw the conclusion that 50%, or 12,000,000 people, are using the drug based upon unsubstantiated reports of an increase of drug cases at family courts is ludicrous. This is North Korea we're talking about.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:38 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Beijing Bad?
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:00 PM on February 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

Makes sense that something that would reduce appetite and provide some measure of euphoria would take hold in North Korea. Heartbreaking.
posted by basicchannel at 9:14 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Before it wrecks their bodies and drives them crazy, meth users can stay awake for ages and work like madmen. I wonder if the government is encouraging it to some degree; not like they'd care about the long-term health of their population.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:05 PM on February 8, 2012

Looked up Hamhung, and found this on wikipedia:
In 1995, Hamhŭng witnessed, thus far, one of the only documented challenges to the North Korean government when famine-ravaged soldiers began a march toward Pyongyang. The revolt was quelled and the unit of soldiers was disbanded.

The North Korean famine of the 1990s appears to have had a disproportionate effect on the people of Hamhung. Andrew Natsios, a former aid worker, USAID Administrator, and author of The Great North Korean Famine, described Hamhung as "the city most devastated by [the] famine."[5] Contemporary published reports from The Washington Post[6] and Reuters[7] describe the presence of numerous fresh graves on the surrounding hillsides, and report that many of Hamhung's children were stunted by malnutrition. One survivor claimed that more than 10% of the city's population died, with another 10% fleeing the city in search of food.[8] Despite previously being closed to foreigners, foreign nationals can now travel to Hamhung through the few approved North Korean tour operators."[9]

There is speculation that Hamhung, with its high proportion of chemists and the site of a chemical-industrial complex built by the Japanese during World War II, is the center for North Korea's methamphetamine production.[10]
Interesting to see that the famine had a huge effect here compared to other areas, and that this is where the meth shit is happening (though the claim is that it's due to the infrastructure, so maybe a deadly combo?)
posted by symbioid at 10:13 PM on February 8, 2012

I first read this as "Spreading math ..." and thought to myself, Good for them!
posted by newdaddy at 10:36 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's not a whole lot to this. I find it interesting that there's obviously enough of a meth problem in North Korea to warrant explicit restrictions against its (private) manufacture. But I don't find the 25-50% statistic to be at all reliable, based on its citations, and there is no hard data to conclude that North Korean meth smuggling into China has become significant enough to affect relations between the two countries. This article consists mainly of speculation founded on anecdotes.
posted by Edgewise at 10:52 PM on February 8, 2012

WhAt this point I wouldn't be surprised if the NK govt was manufacturing and distributing it themselves.
posted by PenDevil at 12:17 AM on February 9, 2012

WhAt this point I wouldn't be surprised if the NK govt was manufacturing and distributing it themselves.

Actually, that's something that has been quite widely accepted for a while. What the article hints at is that meth cooking in North Korea appears to have entered the realm of private enterprise, which is a problem for the DPRK government for a number of reasons, but mostly because it doesn't like competition.
posted by Skeptic at 1:27 AM on February 9, 2012

Isn't the Nk govt also responsible for vast programming sweat shops that produce flash games and other things living on the web? If so I'm imagining something like this, but with everyone also on Meth while they code their lives away.
posted by Chekhovian at 2:41 AM on February 9, 2012

Beijing Bad?
Came in for a Breaking Bad joke; left satisfied. So how do you say "Heisenberg" in Korean?
posted by fuse theorem at 6:42 PM on February 9, 2012

I want to believe.
posted by sneebler at 8:31 AM on February 10, 2012

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