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Growing Drug Crimes: Immediate Action Is Required
  • By Park Jeong-hyeon, reporter
  • 승인 2023.05.01 01:24
  • 호수 318
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▲ A meth-laced drink bottle handed to victims in Gangnam-gu, Seoul (Source: Seoul Gangnam Police Station)

On April 3, an incident of distributing narcotic beverages to students happened in Daechi- dong, Gangnam- gu, Seoul, which is also the country’s premier district for private education. Under the guise of a free tasting event, the four, ‘salesman- like’ people allegedly handed out meth- laced beverages, introducing them as a brain- boosting drink for concentration and memory. After identifying and tracing the shipping route of the empty bottles, the police found out that it was the handiwork of a group based in China. The incident is also receiving attention because voice phishing and drug crimes have been combined. According to police investigations, there were eight victims in total, seven students and one parent, and the parents of the victims received threatening phone calls saying, "Your child has taken drugs. Therefore, if you don't give us money, we will report your child." Behind the crime, it was discovered that four, ‘salesman- like’ accomplices were given the instructions by two of the group leaders and a merchant.

In Korea, the act of secretly lacing food or beverages with drugs to others is called the ‘drug- plop’ method. The problem is that there is no legal basis for additional punishment for ‘drug- plop.’ When it comes to drug possession, management, or receipt, the existing Narcotics Control Act sets a penalty of imprisonment for more than one year. It means that there is no legislation that punishes the act of 'delivering' drugs to others. Therefore, no law applies to the ‘Gangnam student drugging incident.' This is because the law only punishes the culprits if the victim takes drugs and gets sick, or if a secondary crime is committed. Since the students did not show any special symptoms, the culprits who distributed the drugs, should only be charged with drug possession. Nowadays, drugs are being abused and distributed so quickly that anyone can become exposed to drugs without even recognizing them. In particular, the public was shocked by the ‘Gangnam student drugging incident,' because drugs had reached high school students too easily. People's concerns are growing as they do not know when and where they will be exposed to drugs.

According to the Supreme Prosecutors' Office's ‘White Paper on Drug Crime’ and 'Monthly Trends on Drugs,' the total number of drug offenders in 2022 was 18,395, an increase of about 30%, compared to five years ago. Among them, the number of teenage drug offenders in 2022 was 481, surging more than four times in six years. The increase in the number of teenage drug offenders shows that the country's drug management system has completely imploded. Therefore, the ‘Gangnam student drugging incident’ cannot be considered accidental. Not only in the instance of the ‘Gangnam student drugging incident,’ but also in clubs of Gangnam and Hongdae, carrying a personal bottle is already known as common sense due to greater drug awareness. Due to the fact that the act of secretly giving drugs to others can lead to secondary crimes such as sexual assault and extortion, it is urgent to prepare countermeasures.

To start with, a large- scale pan- governmental special investigation headquarters was established on April 10, to solve the ‘Gangnam student drugging incident.’ In addition, the Financial Crime Investigation Team, which is in charge of intellectual crimes, had been put in place, and a revision was proposed that would punish offenders with a maximum sentence of death, if they forced minors to take drugs. In the wake of the ‘Gangnam student drugging incident,’ the government is committed to cracking down on the problem. However, the basis for treating and rehabilitating drug addicts is relatively insufficient. As drug crimes have a higher recidivism rate than other crimes, it is just as important to break the cycle of addiction as it is to punish the offenders. Therefore, combining anti- drug measures with drug rehabilitation may be more effective. In addition, as the ‘Gangnam student drugging incident’ has shown that voice phishing and drug crimes have been combined, some argue that the investigative agency and the authorities should take special countermeasures. This is because recent crimes are becoming more sophisticated to avoid police detection, investigation, and tracking, threatening people's daily lives. From the ‘Gangnam student drugging incident,' we should all be aware of the importance and seriousness of drugs in order to avoid becoming victims of similar crimes in the future.

By Park Jeong-hyeon, reporter  jhgongju0903@gmail.com

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