North Korea Gives Workers Meth To Speed Up Construction Project


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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Pressed by North Korean authorities to complete a major showcase construction project in Pyongyang on time, project managers are allegedly offering the beleaguered labor force meth.

“Project managers are now openly providing drugs to construction workers so that they will work faster,” an anonymous source in North Korea told Radio Free Asia.

North Korean officials are currently pushing tired workers to finish constructing the frames for a 70-story high-rise apartment building and some 60 other structures before the temperatures start to drop. For the construction projects on Pyongyang’s Ryomyung Street, the state reportedly gathered “hundreds of thousands” of workers from the capital, and numerous others were brought in from surrounding areas.

“They are undergoing terrible sufferings in their work,” the source inside North Korea told Radio Free Asia.

Graffiti has started popping up around the construction site where workers are being forced to take meth. The writings mock production slogans praising North Korea’s construction and production speeds. One piece reportedly read, “Pyongyang speed is drug speed.” Other critical pieces called the North Korean constructions battalions “drug troops.” Investigators have already threatened to punish those responsible.

This project is meant as a symbolic response to the battery of sanctions which have been placed on North Korea by other countries and international organizations for repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests. Methamphetamine, known as orum or “ice,” is a common product in North Korea, a country which struggles to produce standard commodities but has a noticeable knack for producing narcotics.

During the 1970s, the North Korean government initiated an undercover opiate production operation, and the drugs were shipped overseas by diplomats and officials to facilitate the acquisition of foreign currency.

In 2005, North Korea decided to end its state-sponsored operations; however, this triggered the rise of private, lab-based meth production and the proliferation of methamphetamine across the country.

Meth was initially produced for customers in China, but dealers quickly identified market opportunities domestically. For instance, there have been reports that privileged North Korean wives use methamphetamine to lose weight.

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