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Is North Korea Running a Global Drug Ring?

Diplomats were reportedly ordered to sell drugs abroad to help their cash-strapped country.

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Is Kim Jong Un a glorified kingpin? Photo via

By McCarton Ackerman

03/22/13

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Desperate to solve its cash woes due to ongoing isolation from the rest of the world, North Korea has reportedly ordered its foreign diplomats in numerous embassies, including one in Eastern Europe, to sell illegal drugs on the streets. According to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, a defector told South Korean officials that the diplomats were sent abroad with 44 pounds of drugs and told to raise $300,000 in sales. The task was made even more difficult due to a strict April 15 deadline to raise the funds in order “to prove their loyalty and mark the birthday of nation founder Kim Il Sung on April 15.” Individual embassies are reportedly enlisting up to 10 diplomats as drug dealers, which could earn the impoverished country up to $3 million per mission. Although poverty is widespread in North Korea, ruler Kim Jong Un and his inner circle live in luxury. The government wealth has been attributed to illegal practices including selling state-manufactured drugs like high quality meth to China, which brings in an estimated $100 to $200 million each year. A secretive government office called “Room 39″ reportedly manages the illicit income and uses it to either buy high-quality food and liquor for Un's inner circle or spends it on the country's weapons program. It was reported in 2011 that the state-produced meth has trickled into North Korean society and led to rampant addiction, since many residents use it as a "cure-all" in lieu of basic medicine or health care. “People with chronic disease take it until they’re addicted,” said one NGO worker with experience in the country. “They take it for things like cancer. This drug is their sole form of medication.”

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