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Drugs in Korea

July 9, 2015

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Whoa! Hi everyone! I’m writing this as it’s 6:30AM here in Vancouver. I woke up at midnight after landing the day before, and I’m jet lagged as all hell. My day’s half done. I’m gonna call it a day at, say, 2PM. Back to sleep for me!

But we filmed this TL;DR before we left. It’s gonna be our last TL;DR in a while, I think. We didn’t film that many more in advance. We did film a bunch of FAPFAPs, WANKs, WTFs, and Speaker’s Corners, though! So there’s a small update on the schedule.

Now, back to talking about druggies. Ha! You know, it’s odd how often people ask us about drugs, not because they want us to research drug use in Korea, but because they think we’re drug users. Surprisingly for many, we’re not. And it’s not for ethical or religious reasons, or because we’re afraid of drugs. It’s just not something we ever actively sought out. We have friends who are responsible drug users, so we’re not under the impression that all drug users are dumb and speak with long drawls and don’t have their shit together. That’s just not true. That’s just how they’re depicted in media.

Anyhow, this is a long conversation that has heated arguments on either sides. In Korea, though, it doesn’t really seem like it’s at all accepted. Marijuana is starting to be legalized in some parts of the US. Other drugs are decriminalized in parts of Europe. That talk isn’t happening in Korea, though. It’s very taboo. Hell: G-Dragon did some weed in Japan and it was all over the news in Korea, for some reason.

We didn’t actually talk about this in our video, but we have a very close Korean friend who had to flee the country because of her drug use in Korea. The police called her in for a drug test after her dealer was arrested and gave up all of his contacts, so our friend hopped on the next plane out of the country and has never lived in Korea since. She’s in a pretty high ranking position overseas now, and went to one of the SKY Universities here in Korea, but had to leave her family and education behind because her career would have been ruined in Korea. Interesting, no?

Otherwise, I’m sure that some people are going to watch this video with significantly more drug use in Korea experience than we have, and probably will be able to say a lot more on the matter, which is where we usually ask at the end of our TL;DRs for people to share their experiences, though I doubt they’ll, ugh, want to share their stories in a public forum like this. Like, we can’t say “Hey Korean Drug Users: let us know your drug stories! The police aren’t reading this! For really reals!” So my apologies to you if our research doesn’t align with your experience. We can all agree, though, that drugs use is far less tolerated and far less common here in Korea than in North America, right?

On that note, here’s a list of some other famous Korean people who were busted for drugs:

Olympics swimmer Park Tae-Hwan (aka “Marine Boy”)

High levels of testosterone were found in his system when he failed his doping test. The main substance found was Nebido, which is banned in Korea, and this was supposedly given by his dermatologist without his knowing. Park is now on an 18-month prohibition, ruled by the International Swimming Federation.

Psy

A long time ago, Psy openly admitted to smoking marijuana after his first album back in 2001. He was banned from being on TV after that; however, Psy regained his trust and fans back when a reporter spotted him during the 2002 World Cup and asked him to sing a song for a program. Now he’s Korea’s pop Jesus after Gangnam Style so not much mention of his drug use anymore.

Bumkey

Bumkey, one of our favourite artists in Korea, was supposed to be sentenced to five years in prison for distributing and using Philopon and ecstasy, but the last I read of it the charges were dropped because there wasn’t enough evidence. Sure, maybe there wasn’t enough, but there was some though, right? But more importantly: METH!?!! BUMKEY COME ON, METH?!?! I know I mentioned responsible drug using friends, but they stay the hell away from meth. METH: NOT EVEN ONCE!

YG Promoter?

This is another one that’s kinda vague, so I’m not sure how the case has developed recently, but on June 22nd, a well-known YG business promoter was arrested at Incheon airport for using cocaine. The promoter tested positive when a hair follicle drug test was conducted, and the police found marijuana while searching the promoter’s house. The prosecutor’s office believes A and 5 well-known K-pop stars did drugs together. A is known for being friends with Big Bang, 2NE1 and others. According to YG, the promoter is not an official YG employee. Still, though: you don’t hear much about coke in Korea.

Crown J

Crown J was arrested for use of marijuana back in 2010. The court hit him with two years of probation, and an additional fine in June of 2011. Crown J supposedly said he smoked marijuana to get along with the people he needed to approach for his music career when he was in the US. He also said he hasn’t used any drugs besides marijuana. In June 2015, Crown J made a comeback after 5 years of reflection, though I haven’t heard much about it. Is it safe to say that his career…puts on sunglasses…went up in smoke? YEAAAAAHHHHH!!! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

So that’s it for this post. I’m sure there are other famous people in Korea that got busted. Those are the ones that I can remember off the top of my head.

And now, off we go to Seattle! Oh, the irony of our road trip with the release of this video isn’t lost on me…

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Drugs in Korea

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  1. You can watch this video if you access it directly through Youtube…FYI

    3 years ago
  2. I would love to watch this video, and it has been down for a while now. Is there any chance of it being re-uploaded?

    3 years ago
  3. If a young homeless girl came and knocked on your door and asked you to help her what would you do?
    A: would u take her in and car for her as your own
    B:put her in an adoption center
    C:find someone to take her in
    or D: other

    3 years ago
  4. Its funny because the first time I was introduced to drugs was like grade 1, there was a story in my English textbook about a kid doing drugs then regretting it later. Even thought I have not come in direct contact with drugs i have heard stories. My classmate last year had once told there were this guy that had rented their basement and once invited his friends and right after they started to smell weed, i think they got arrested or something. Which leads me to this question….how the heck do you people know what weed smoked like…i have lived in Canada for a long time and still don`t have a clear indication about how that ish smells.

    3 years ago
  5. My guess as to the use of meth in Korea:
    It’s more economic to deal concentrated drugs as opposed to mild drugs when there is equal consequences for being caught with either. During Prohibition Era in the States, there was much more whisky than beer, because whisky is more concentrated and could get people drunk a lot easier than beer would. People only took the risk to smuggle hard liquor since the consequences would be the same for a higher reward.
    Simple Economics!

    3 years ago
  6. This reminds me of a story my mom told me about my great aunties in New York.

    Basically new neighbors moved in next door to the place my aunties lived. Back then most people had gardens (victory gardens anyone?).

    Given they were next door neighbors, they could see what was growing in their neighbor’s backyard. Well the neighbors grew some tomato plants but in between the plants was some sort of weed they had never seen before.

    They actually complained to each other that the neighbors should hurry up and harvest the tomatoes because they were so ripe, but all the neighbor seemed to care about is the weeds.

    Long story short it was marijuana. This was a long time ago but I still find it petty funny. One of my great Aunts is still alive at 102, so this was a long time ago.

    3 years ago
  7. Hi Guise! Who This is going to be long….. Well Im from México, here drugs addition and narcotraffic there are serious problems, I am talking gangs, homicides, and a lot of awful terrible things happen so guberment programs, tv, even there telenovelas whom stand up against them. Marihuana, maría, weed, whatever you wanna call it its completly ilegall but is kind a grey area, you cant easily buy it but you can get arrested. Also cocaine, lsd, meths the are comun and specially cocaine is the 2nd most seller drug, and one of the reason narcotraffic had so many power. Whatever I Live in one of the safety citys in Mexico, and I know all this information because Im studing bachelor in education and researching on internet, and Also I want say, We take everyday drugs, you Know cafeina, paracetamol, nicotina and others are present in my life, but never never never be nearly closed somethinge dangerous like meth, the problem is not made it legal, the problem is the addition, and the harm that s**** cause you. Also really sadly I had friends who lost the fight against their addition.

    3 years ago
  8. I don’t know how it is in Canada or the rest of the US, but you can’t buy Sudafed in MS anymore without a prescription due to people using it to make meth. So we actually share that in common with South Korea. Also, meth is a pretty big problem at least in the South – police are always busting meth labs, especially in the country or suburbs. I totally agree with Simon and Martina though – I don’t know why people use it when it’s effects are so horrible. I would think meth was big in Korea because it’s probably easier to access/make since people use household products. With marijuana in the US, a lot ofof it smuggled across the border and I know living off I-10 that’s a big thing the police are always looking out for. In Korea I’d think the access wouldn’t be as easy? Although you did say it’s big in Japan so I guess I couldn’t say. I’m definitely not an expert beyond what I see in the news.

    3 years ago
  9. Surprised Park Bom wasn’t mentioned in your blog. Wonder what she’s been up to lately. I suppose the poor girl’s reputation has been torn apart enough. Hope she makes a comeback.

    3 years ago
  10. Out of all the blog/vlog comment sections I’ve seen, the EYK one has got to be one of the best ones. I love how the community here is <3

    3 years ago
  11. Funny that you guys are freaked out about Meth in Korea since there is a rising drug in Russia and Southwest US called Krokodil. It is one of the few drugs that I JUST DON’T GET. It started in Russia as a drug because it could be put together by drug store items, things that wouldn’t raise a red flag if you went to the store. So it was dirt cheap, and you just need a recipe, not a dealer. But the side effect is that your skin and muscles eat itself. It is honestly the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. Then in the US there were a few cases of it, though I am not really sure how many people actually use it. Many people end up having to amputate body parts when they go into recovery. Granted, from what I understand, it is so horrible because the homemade versions have so many by-product toxins in it. So if Walter White was cooking the stuff, it supposedly won’t eat your body.

    3 years ago
  12. In Australia, ice has been on an exponential rise which is why Australia has released anti-meth campaigns and boosted public awareness of its consequences (especially recently) in order to reduce its use. It’s such a dirty drug and it has the most difficult addiction to recover from. Pseudoephedrine is regulated by pharmacists and it’s protocol to ask for a person’s drivers license which is recorded into a national database. All interstate licenses and overseas passports/licenses are recorded. By law, pseudoephedrine containing products are also required to be placed out of the public’s eye and can only be obtained by talking with the pharmacist. Heroin used to be the problem drug 10 years ago but that’s been gradually replaced by ice in the past decade. What I want to know is about codeine use in Korea. It’s because I know codeine can only be acquired through a prescription in America but is readily available to the public in Australia. In my opinion, opioid drug abuse is just as bad as other illicit drug abuse although more easy to cover up. Marijuana has always been around and I’m sure it’s second to alcohol use however I know that there are studies being conducted for its potential to be a therapeutic medicine since there are people who use it to cope with their medical conditions rather than for personal use.

    3 years ago
    • Pharmacies in the US do the same thing (at least in New Jersey, each state can have differing laws) where they log your drivers ID. It sucks sometimes because I remember a friend trying to buy some medicine but the internet was down so the local store couldn’t connect to the databases to log the drivers ID. The store was a chain, so if I would go to buy more from another store they would know.

      3 years ago
  13. I was living in Iksan, Korea earlier this year (then had to go home cause of stuff) and there was a street I would walk down on my way home from work at night that always smelt of pot. During the day not so much but at night after normal working hours it was there. Whenever I would tell my Korean friends they wouldn’t understand what I was talking about but my foreigner friends were all “Are you sure?” to which I replied “There is no mistaking that smell” and then a month or so later after I found the smell there was a group of police officers who walked past me at night the next street over. I don’t know if anything came of it but yea that happened.

    3 years ago
    • I know that smell you’re thinking of but I bet you that you’re walking past a traditional Korean medical place, hence why it is a constant smell. It seriously smells like weed at first but if you smell very very carefully it’s a little bit too sweet and ginsengy. It’s the herbs they use at a TM that are being boiled and turned into medicine. ^^

      3 years ago
  14. Great video guise!
    I don’t think people are aware of how strict drug policies in certain countries can be.
    As I prepare to go to Korea, one of the things I looked up was whether my regular medications were available in Korea. Imagine my surprise when I found out that not only is my Adderall (generic name: amphetamine salts) not available, but it was completely illegal regardless of a prescription.
    Needless to say, I have come to terms with the massive amount of caffeine I will need ingest while I’m in Korea to make up for the lack of Adderall lol

    3 years ago
    • If you have to get a health exam make sure to take a doctor’s note as well as the date you stopped taking the aderall, in case it shows up in your system.

      3 years ago
  15. Just in case you missed it… There’s a typo in the sixth paragraph, last line :)

    3 years ago
  16. So interesting! I work in a pharmacy (aus) and i was so shocked when you said you could just get psuedo over the counter!! “Project stop” for ya….

    3 years ago
  17. OK, I have to comment about this meth thing because the statistics you are using are not telling you the entire story. In Korea, any derivative substance from methamphetamine is considered methamphetamine and illegal. To put that in perspective: the generic name for Aderall is amphetamine salts, which is a derivative of methamphetamine. What does this mean? It means that one of the most common substances for treatment of ADD or ADHD in America makes you a meth head in Korea by their definition.

    Philopon is another derivative of methamphetamine, also in pill form, that is commonly used in Japan by office workers to stay awake and work longer hours. It is similar in dosage to Aderall.

    So, for context, the statistics you provided may seem crazy, but most likely fall under the philopon/aderall usage than of what we think about in America which is crystal meth that you inject or smoke.

    Korea simply has a broader definition for illegal methamphetamine than is used in North America.

    3 years ago
    • Super useful to know! Thank you for the clarification. That makes a lot of sense :D

      3 years ago
    • Totally guessing, but to me that would make the age range make a lot more sense.

      Aderall would be more useful than meth for the 30-something who wants to climb the corporate ladder.

      Again, totally guessing though.

      3 years ago
  18. I am actually shocked that Sudafed is available without a prescription. In Michigan it is required to have one after it was revealed that there was a huge increase in meth production. Apparently it was like Breaking Bad out here. From what I’ve heard production has gone down but surprisingly enough some of the producers busted were Amish. So weird.

    3 years ago
    • It may be over the counter, but they log your license whenever you buy it, so the DEA is tracking purchases. If you buy more than 2 in one month, they REALLY watch you.

      3 years ago
  19. There is an interesting bit of history. Back in the Peace Corps Korea era (1966 – 1981), we country volunteers while visiting the villages would often come across older people smoking, usually in the long Korea pipes, 옛날담배 (in case hangul doesn’t work here, old-time tobacco). This was, of course, pot, although I’m of the impression that it wasn’t grown really for smoking but mostly for use in cloth. I used to come across stands of hemp, with the plants really tall, next to the vegetable or corn patch. Sometime in that era, the US military pushed Korea into anti-marijuana laws, and Koreans changed their mindset, including marijuana in the category “마약” (bad drugs) where it remains to this day. I do not, however, know if you can still go out to the boonies and find people smoking the old-time tobacco. At the time they seemed a bit embarrassed by it, as it implied they couldn’t afford real tobacco.

    3 years ago
    • I can’t imagine hemp plants grown in Korean climates would be very strong. From what I understand about growing the plants and the chemical compounds, you really need a warm environment or create a synthetic one. So it doesn’t seem crazy that people would be smoking hemp on a regular basis and have it be on par with tobacco use.

      3 years ago
      • The plants do fine, onesonicbite. Have you ever seen traditional Korean funeral clothes? That rough tan cloth used in the men’s hats, for instance, is hemp. Must be a lot of varieties of hemp plants that are adapted to a variety of climates. I used to live in Omaha where we owned a horse. Out on trail rides we’d regularly come across stands of hemp, probably left over from WWII when everyone was growing it to sell to the military for rope. The dang horse would spot and immediately want to eat some.

        3 years ago
  20. Sudafed changed their ingredients in the US and now use phenylephrine instead of pseudoephedrine in most of the over the counter medications. It doesn’t work for me at all. In order to get pseudoephedrine you have to go to the pharmacy counter and have your ID scanned so that the amount you purchase can be tracked.

    3 years ago
  21. Yep, I think the same thing about GD. In Mexico it’s illegal, and unfortunately there is a bloody war between drugs cartels very pronounced in cities that are border with USA, I live in one of them. So I think the best thing would be legalized.

    3 years ago
  22. This is one of the main reasons I cannot visit Korea. My husband is a medicinal marijuana patient and after finally finding a quality caregiver and the right medication, he’s able to move and do things again. Going without his medication means a definite flare up and being stuck in whatever lodging we have not to mention pain for him.

    I understand many places are different and the stigma around marijuana is similar. We had to pay $50 to the state to register in their database only to recently have a police officer go on record saying he doesn’t trust the state’s system. Frustrating.

    3 years ago
  23. Vancouver has evolved to become more leniant to Marijuana. We are now the first city in Canada to regulate the dispensaries.
    Since the EYK crew is in Vancouver now, I should probably say that smoking marijuana is considered perfectly fine. We might get the ire of the federal government, but we are accepting of the benefits to it, and that it is less dangerous than some things. This means you will often meet people who don’t look like they smoke it, but they do secretly.

    Other drugs are in a grey area. We have safe injection sites in the city and they do help to provide clean and safe areas to use drugs. But at the same time, we do have issues with the hardcore drugs. My bf learnt that some drugs can help in the rehabilitation process, but this issue is tied up in bureaucracy.

    Long story short: Marijuana in Vancouver is perfectly fine. Other drugs are in a grey area. Also, don’t get caught with an open can of beer outside.

    3 years ago
  24. It’s definitely interesting how policies are different in various countries.
    Hope that you’re able to get over the jet-lag asap!

    3 years ago