By Kim Jae-won
The U.S. military postal system is being used as a supply channel for new kinds of drugs entering Korea, according to an opposition lawmaker Monday.
To put the brakes on the runaway rise in drugs sent here, it is crucial the Korea Customs Service (KCS) steps up surveillance and inspections Rep. Kim Hyun-mee of the main opposition Democratic United Party. The KCS seized 2.878 kilograms of illegal drugs from the Joint Military Mail Terminal (JMMT) in the first nine months of this year. That is 7.7 times higher than a year ago, Kim said.
Most of the drugs seized were “JWH-018,” better known as “spice,” which mainly sells secretly in Hongdae and Itaewon, Rep. Kim said in a press release.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, spice refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana.
Kim said the government should beef up its inspection of goods through the military postal route to prevent illegal drugs spreading to residents here.
“The problem is that only five customs officials check about 1,000 parcels a day at the JMMT. The KCS needs to deploy more agents to enforce better inspections,” said Kim Jun-ho, an aide to Kim.
The U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK) said that it is translating the report in English to review it. “We are in the process of checking the facts. We will announce our stance later,” said USFK spokesman Kim Young-gyu.
In Korea, drug smuggling and consumption has mainly been an issue among celebrities but now is becoming more common, in particular among the younger generation.
A combined of 29.43 kilograms of illegal drugs worth 61.9 billion won were seized by the customs authorities last year, according to data from the KCS. By country, narcotics from China topped the list at 6.287 kilograms, followed by the U.S. with 5.85 kilograms, Mali with 4.238 kilograms and South Africa with 4 kilograms.
The lawmaker’s report comes months after Korean prosecutors indicted an active duty American soldier on suspicion of smuggling drugs into the country from Hungary.
A Seoul district prosecutors’ office said in July it was investigating a private from the 2nd Infantry Division of the Eighth U.S. Army, whose name was withheld, on charges of smuggling 3.48 kilograms of synthetic marijuana from Hungary via international air mail between August of last year and January of this year, with an estimated street value of 110 million won ($96,533).