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Drug offences rise by nearly 50 percent on-year

34% of suspects are teens and people in 20s

Dec. 6, 2023 - 19:04 By Park Jun-hee

South Korea’s special investigation unit on drug crimes on Wednesday said it had caught a record-high of 22,393 people suspected of drug offenses from January to October this year.

The figure is nearly a 50 percent increase, or up 7,211, from last year’s tally of 15,182, reflecting the troubling trend of rapidly growing drug use here.

People in their teens and 20s made up the largest number, accounting for 34.6 percent of the total -- 1,174 were in their teens and 6,580 were in their 20s. The special anti-drug probe team attributed the surge in young adults’ drug crimes to being able to purchase illicit substances on global platforms such as social media.

The number of people caught smuggling, illegally selling and distributing drugs stood at 7,301, up 3,310 from the same period last year. The corresponding figure was 5,041 in 2022.

The anti-drug probe team was launched in April.

As part of the effort, police established a joint task force with regional police agencies to launch an intensive crackdown on drug-related crimes from March to November.

The Coast Goard also set up a drug investigation team staffed by 86 personnel, while the Defense Ministry has also made a special push to stop the distribution and smuggling of drugs within the military.

The coordinated efforts between prosecutors, police, customs service and the National Intelligence Service were able to prevent further drug distribution, the investigation team added.

The special probe team added that it would arrest and investigate health care professionals who illegally prescribe or distribute drugs to others for non-medical purposes, even if they are first-time offenders.

It also plans to beef up regional drug investigation working groups under the special investigation team, as well as forcibly repatriate drug offenders who have fled the country.

Separately, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, the Korean National Police Agency and the Seoul Metropolitan Government signed an agreement on the same day to combat drug crimes occurring in clubs and entertainment facilities.

The top court also said that it would devise a set of measures for the misuse and abuse of medical drugs. The medication includes opioid painkillers such as pethidine and fentanyl.