“Driven by growing pressure to complete a showcase construction project on schedule, project managers at a building site in the North Korean capital are openly supplying their exhausted work force with powerful methamphetamines called “ice,” Radio Free Asia says, citing some anonymous sources.
There might be something to the idea, German historian Norman Ohler claims. In his book, Ohler writes that during World War II “Pervitin”, a methamphetamine-based drug, kept Hitler’s army awake without feeling tired, literally turning them into robots.
The information from the radio report was then published by many western mass media outlets, but seems to be exaggerated. Though the problem of meth production remains acute in Korea, according to Konstantin Asmolov, a leading research associate at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, the report is a classic example of propaganda. Eager for any opportunity to label North Korea as “the Evil Empire”, the western media refers to the 99 percent purity of North Korean meth, presuming it could not be homemade but state funded. “Otherwise, it is not the Evil Empire”, Asmolov says.
North Korea is not the only country suffering from a meth pandemic. The popularity of meth in Iran is only second to opium. As a dealer from Tehran explained to the Guardian, meth is cheap, easy to make and deliver. But that’s not the only reason for its popularity. Iranian people believe meth is safer than heroin. Shishe, or methamphetamine, is consumed by all levels of Iranian society: elite youth, peasants, prostitutes, clerks.
Surprisingly, cracking down on meth dealers can be dangerous. In Basra, Iraq, 95 percent of the police are corrupt. Impoverished districts full of bandits are controlled by their affined security forces. “If they know what we are working on we will be shot here in the middle of the street,”- one of the detectives told the Guardian.
The dismal economic situation in Iraq forces Basra’s residents to buy meth. As the purchase of alcohol is restricted, cheap meth helps people deal with the grim reality. Bandits in Basra used to sell oil but when crystal meth appeared on the other side of the border, meth became the new oil.
The government’s policy along with economic devastation, corruption and loose borders could lead to the spread of the meth crisis throughout the entire country.