Growing drug use by college and secondary school students in North Korea has sparked a rise in antisocial behavior in the reclusive nuclear-armed state, leading to calls by national leader Kim Jong Un to ramp up the monitoring and control of student life, sources in the country say.
On Oct. 17, an order by Kim to tighten control of the schools “for the timely prevention of social problems” was delivered nationwide through the education department of each province’s ruling Workers’ Party committee, a source in North Pyongan province told RFA’s Korean Service this week.
The call to more strictly regulate student life followed earlier directives by Kim on educational matters such as the modernization of teaching tools and school buildings and improvements in the quality of education, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Scenes common in the past of students openly consuming drugs or smoking on school grounds are now quickly disappearing as Kim’s order takes effect, the source said.
North Korea has in recent years grappled with a drug addiction problem among youth, workers, and even police officers, with the powerful stimulant methamphetamine, also called “ice,” their primary drug of choice.
And as North Korean drug producers began to sell more at home following a crackdown on smuggling across the border into China, use of the highly addictive drug began to spread through the country’s schools.
Strongholds of crime
“The colleges and secondary schools are turning out large numbers of drug addicts,” a source in North Hamgyong province, bordering China, said.
“College students have even circulated among themselves the know-how to manufacture drugs, selling the instructions for about 1,000 Chinese yuan [U.S. $158],” he added.
Kim may have issued his order tightening control on the schools because he could no longer tolerate a situation where places of education were turning into “criminal strongholds,” he said.
In early October, security officers in North Hamgyong carried out unannounced inspections of college and secondary school students on their way to class and arrested 20 on charges of carrying drugs, the source said.
“The incident was really shocking, because most of those arrested were the children of provincial party cadres and law enforcement officials,” he said.
In spite of these tightened controls, it may be difficult now to fully eradicate students’ drug use, though, because the use of illegal drugs has become so deeply rooted in North Korean society as a whole, sources say.
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Changsop Pyon. Written in English by Richard Finney.