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  • 작성자 사진Kim Min-ji

[Feature] Drug-Free Korea?

No.162 / Mar 6, 2023



“South Korea is a country where people do not feel a threat to their safety, even if you drink at a bar or go to convenience stores late at night, because they are safe from crime.” If you live in Korea, regardless of nationality, gender, or age, you have heard this story at least once. Only a few years ago, Korea was a drug-free country, with nary a headline about high-school students inhaling drugs in school toilets. However, as of 2016, Korea has lost its status as a drug-free country, prompting the Korean government to declare a war on drugs and quickly restore its status.


In the past, the perception was that drugs were in the exclusive possession of underground workers and celebrities like Seungri, the disgraced former member of K-pop boy band BIGBANG. In 2021, there were only 16,153 drug offenders. This counted 0.031% of Korea’s total population. However, this is the official rate of arrests. Dark features, that is, drug offenders who have not been arrested yet, are much higher. According to a study by the Korean Police Studies Association (KPSA), the Dark features of drug crimes in Korea was predicted to be 28.57 times higher than reported. This suggests that there are approximately 460,000 drug offenders in Korea, if we multiply the number of arrested drug offenders by 28.57 to account for unreported cases. An ordinary person can directly access the Dark Web, a configuration of networks that requires specific software to access and where drug-trading sites are established to evade surveillance. Users here can simply search for drug-related keywords on a portal or social network service. Unlike in the past, when acquiring drugs required legwork and a high price, people now can legally purchase cheap drugs from doctors in an hour. Indeed, even students systematically visit hospitals across the country to be prescribed patches of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid used as an analgesic. Not only has access to drugs become easier than in the past, but the levels of rejection and risk perception of drugs have also decreased owing to the development of easier methods of administration, such as through cigarettes or beverages.


In one case of high-school drug crime, 42 high-school students and out-of-school teenagers were prescribed fentanyl, which they inhaled at parks and school toilets. Drugs have become a social problem that is spreading among students. Cho Sung-nam, the head of a hospital affiliated with Ministry of Justice, said the risk of drugs lies in “addiction”. Abuse of drugs destroys the brain, reducing the amount of dopamine, but increasing drug resistance, which then requires taking higher doses for an effective stimulus. A destroyed brain needs over a year to a year-and-a-half to normalize. The vicious cycle of drug-seeking repeats as one cannot feel the pleasure, joy, and happiness in daily life without full brain recovery. Once you start taking a drug, you cannot break the vicious cycle. The Ajou Globe (The AG) hopes the Korean government will win the war on drugs and regain Korea’s status as a drug-free country.


 

By Kim Min-ji, AG Senior Editor

mmoboo77@ajou.ac.kr

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