The government has announced plans to strengthen monitoring of international mail delivered to American troops here following a drug smuggling case involving a U.S. soldier.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it would step up information sharing on drug-related issues with the Korean branches of the U.S. Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
The government’s moves are timely and appropriate, given that it’s increasingly difficult to detect drug smuggling when the narcotics are delivered to the military by mail.
Last week, the prosecution secured an arrest warrant for an active American soldier suspected of smuggling drugs into the country from Hungary. The soldier, a private from the 2nd Infantry Division of the Eighth U.S. Army, is charged with smuggling nearly 3.5 kilograms of synthetic marijuana, commonly known as Spice, from August last year until January this year.
The haul has an estimated street value of 200 million won and exceeds the 3,059 grams seized by the Korea Customs Service over the entire past year. The private, the first active duty American soldier to be arrested on drug charges, will be handed over to Korean authorities today. It is the largest-ever drug smuggling case involving U.S. soldiers in Korea.
Spice has a long-lasting hallucinogenic effect ― five times that of ordinary marijuana ― and is cheaper, raising fears that the new type of drug and its use will spread rapidly.
Of greater concern is the rising frequency of U.S. soldiers getting involved in drug trafficking. In March, another U.S. Army private was caught for smuggling about 800 grams of marijuana and other narcotics into Korea. A U.S. Army corporal was arrested in January for smuggling another type of synthetic marijuana, AM-2201, via international mail.
That most of the smuggled drugs are sold to fellow soldiers and foreign residents here is of no comfort, as narcotics are a social evil that can devastate the entire society.
What’s atypical is that organized crime rings have been allegedly involved in the distribution of drugs. Press reports say there are at least 53 drug trafficking gangs in the U.S. military and Korea is one of the countries where they operate along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany and Japan.
The latest case shows that U.S. forces in Korea are vulnerable to drug-related crimes. That’s because Korean law enforcement authorities have difficulty in monitoring mail delivered to the military.
In this respect, we urge the U.S. military to step up efforts to crack down on drug smuggling by its service members. Korea and the U.S. will also have to enhance cooperation to uproot the trafficking of narcotics.