Research Documents

North Korea Strategy Center Report on Human Rights and Illicit Drugs in North Korea

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Nov/06/2017 17:00
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Throughout 2016, North Korea Strategy Center (NKSC) undertook a research project to investigate the intersection of illicit drugs and human rights in North Korea. Though North Korea’s systematic and grave human rights violations have been widely documented and condemned, most importantly in the landmark 2014 Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“UN COI”), there is very little understanding or recent primary information available on the issue of illicit drugs in North Korea and their relationship to human rights concerns in the country. The issue came to NKSC’s attention after a sharp rise in recent years of reports from defectors on the prevalence of use of illicit drugs in North Korea, particularly ‘bingdu’ (crystal methamphetamine, or ‘ice’), and concerns about the correlation between state-sponsored drug trafficking, citizens’ use, and government corruption, weak and inconsistent application of the rule of law, and negative drug-related public health impacts due to a lack of adequate medical and health facilities.

This report is the culmination of survey results from North Korean defectors, North Korean residents and Chinese nationals involved in illicit drugs smuggling between North Korea and China, as well as in-depth interviews with twelve defector participants.  


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The North Korea Strategy Center is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization. We envision a free and open North Korea that upholds the fundamental human rights of all its people in a healthy democracy.

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