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More rehab facilities sought to tackle Korean drug abuse

A rising number of young people are falling prey to drug abuse and related offenses, govt data shows
K-pop star G-Dragon arrives at a police station for questioning in Incheon, South Korea in this file photo. The 35-year-old pop star made headlines recently after he was accused of drug abuse.

K-pop star G-Dragon arrives at a police station for questioning in Incheon, South Korea in this file photo. The 35-year-old pop star made headlines recently after he was accused of drug abuse. (Photo: AFP)

Published: November 21, 2023 09:48 AM GMT
Updated: November 21, 2023 10:12 AM GMT

Experts in South Korea have called for more research and rehabilitation facilities to tackle rising drug addiction and drug-related crimes in the country.

An increasing number of young people are falling prey to drug abuse at an alarming rate, said Kim Sun-chun, a lecturer at the National Institute of Forensic Science and Investigation, the Seoul archdiocesan news portal, Good News reported on Nov. 18.

"I would say it's one of the most serious problems that youths are facing now,” Kim was quoted as saying.

“Because the economy is growing and various distribution networks and things like that are changing, means there are more ways to get drugs,” Kim added.

Kim alleged that the internet and social media sites are facilitating the distribution of drugs among youths.

Total arrests this year up until September for drug offenses increased by 47.5 percent to 20,230 from 13,708 in the same period last year, according to data from South Korea’s Supreme Prosecutor’s Office.

The country recorded around 2,043 drug-related arrests in September alone, the prosecutor’s office said.

The number of drug dealers had nearly doubled from around 9,700 in 2010 to around 18,000 in 2020, it added.

Reportedly, first-time offenders accounted for more than 80 percent of drug convictions in 2021.

Korea lost its status as a drug-free country in 2017 after the number of drug dealers increased above the threshold of 20 per 100,000 people, Good News reported.

Addiction leads to crimes

Kim said that the consumption of drugs causes the youth to lose their will to live and results in them becoming “zombie-like.”

"When you're addicted to drugs you lose your appetite, you lose your will to live. All you think about is the drug,” Kim said.

“It becomes a zombie-like life, because you don't have the will to live, because you don't have the will for anything else,” Kim added.

Citing local media Good News reported an incident in Seoul where students were given drinks laced with drugs under the guise of a tasting event in April.

The scammers claimed that the new drink could help “improve memory and concentration.”

Once the students consumed the drink, their parents were approached by the blackmailers demanding money to keep them from reporting their children's drug use to the police.

The police arrested the scammers, and an investigation revealed the presence of methamphetamine three times above the normal dosage which could have reportedly caused serious bodily damage.

Until September, 5,817 people (28.8 percent) in their 20s were charged with drug-related offenses. Some, 4,634 people (22.9 percent) in their 30s were charged for similar offenses among the total 20,230 cases, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Inadequate facilities

There are 24 government-approved specialized hospitals for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts, Good News reported. Among them, two treat the most addicts.

South Korea with an estimated 52 million citizens has only four residential facilities and three rehabilitation centers for drug addicts, media reports say.

Japan has 90 rehab centers for its estimated population of 125 million, Reuters reported on April 13.

Kim Yong-Seok, a professor at the Catholic University of Korea specializing in addiction studies said that there is a lack of research facilities related to drugs and addiction-related issues.

"If we take universities as an example, only a few have addiction and addiction-related departments,” Kim said.

“I think universities should pay more attention to addiction and make more efforts to train professionals,” he added.

He pointed to the need to introduce a national certification system in the field of addiction which could contribute to improving the service in the field.

"Addiction may be a branch of the mental health field in some ways, but it is also a field that requires unique knowledge and skills,” he said.

“I think it would be positive in many ways if there is a national certification system because it can be standardized and provide a certain level of education in those areas,” he added.

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