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).
주한미군의 우편시스템이 한국으로 유입되는 신종마약의 새로운 채널로 부상하고 있다고 한 야당의원이 월요일 말했다.
마약밀수를 막기 위해 관세청이 검사를 강화해야 한다고 민주통합당 김현미 의원이 말했다. 관세청은 올해 1월에서 9월 사이 총 2,878 그램의 불법 마약을 압수했다. 이는 지난해보다 7.7배 높은 수치다.
압수된 대부분의 마약은 “JWH-018”인데, “스파이스”라는 이름으로 더 잘 알려져 있다. 홍대와 이태원 등지에서 비밀리에 판매된다고 김 의원이 보도자료를 통해 밝혔다. 미국마약남용방지연구소에 따르면, 스파이스는 마리화나와 유사한 경험을 일으키는 물질로서, 다양한 약초의 혼합으로 구성된다.
김 의원은 정부가 미군 군사우편을 통해 들어오는 물품에 대한 검사를 강화해 불법마약이 한국에서 퍼지는 것을 방지해야 한다고 말했다.