Yoon, PPP declare war on drugs
President Yoon Suk-yeol’s administration and the People Power Party (PPP) declared a war on drugs, saying they would eradicate a “cancer” on Korean society.
The announcement Wednesday came as local police and prosecutors warn about rising drug-related crimes.
After a meeting with administration officials Wednesday morning at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, Rep. Sung Il-jong, head of the PPP’s policy committee, told reporters that the head of the Government Policy Coordination Office under the prime minister would lead a so-called narcotics countermeasures council.
The council, said Sung, would serve as a control center for management of the problem, handling everything from investigation, information sharing, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
Four special investigation teams of prosecutors and police officers will be formed nationwide to crack down on domestic drug abuse. In the meeting, Sung said his party also suggested the need for the use of AI technology in investigations.
Information on the illegal sale of drugs will be shared between the prosecution, police, National Intelligence Service, Korea Customs Service, Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Sung accused young people of not perceiving the dangers of drugs, saying that teens dismiss the issue because some companies use the term “drugs” as a marketing strategy to imply their products are so good they’re addictive. The lawmaker said his party and the Yoon administration were keen on improving social awareness and holding drug prevention programs for young people.
Apart from cracking down on drug crimes, Sung said his party and the administration would increase state resources for treating domestic drug criminals, preventing drug addiction and helping people get back on their feet after being discharged from prison.
Wednesday’s meeting between the Yoon administration and PPP was held two days after Yoon urged his aides to crack down on drug abuse in Korea before it mushrooms into a “national risk.”
A spokesperson in Yoon’s office told the JoongAng Ilbo that the president expressed particular concerns about increasing drug crimes among young people, saying that the country must take swift action to “protect our future generation.”
According to data from the prosecution, 807 people were nabbed last year for smuggling drugs into the country such as marijuana. From January to July this year, 868 people were busted.
The sheer volume of confiscated drugs such as methamphetamines, ecstasy and yaba (a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine) has also risen from about 60.79 kilograms last year to some 82.75 kilograms in the first half of this year.
Prosecutors believe the increase is being caused by eased travel restrictions since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last week, a criminal investigation research center affiliated with the Korean National Police University released data showing that drug-related crimes involving foreigners increased by nearly 6.5-fold from 359 cases in 2012 to 2,335 cases last year.
The nationalities of the offenders likewise increased from 31 countries in 2012 to 71 last year.
In 2012, 61.8 percent of those cases involved foreigners taking drugs, while only 5.8 percent were drug smuggling. In comparison, 44.7 percent of last year’s drug-related crimes involving foreigners were the offenders taking drugs, while 20.5 percent related to smuggling.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]