Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"The main culprits in drug smuggling are native speaking teachers"

On January 30, Newsis published the following article:
Smuggling of New Kinds of Drugs ↑, Smuggling drugs by plane ↓

[Daejeon] Last year smuggling of new kinds of drugs increased, while smuggling by plane decreased.

On the 30th, the Korea Customs Service announced that last year 200 cases of smuggling were uncovered, totaling 14 kilograms of drugs worth 19.4 billion won.

The number of cases increased 33% over the year before, but the weight and monetary value of the drugs seized decreased by 67% and 68% respectively.

3.3 kg was seized due to smuggling by air travelers in 32 cases, a decrease from last year of 90% and 14% respectively. Sea travelers accounted for 2.4 kg seized in 13 cases, an increase of 15% and 44% respectively.

By type of drug, 6414 grams of methamphetamine was seized in 74 cases, 5451 grams of marijuana in 53 cases, 605 grams of JWH-018 in 31 cases, and 1481 grams of other drugs were seized in 42 other cases.

According to 'An Analysis of drug arrest trends in 2010,' released by the Korea Customs Service that day, the main characteristic of last year's drug smuggling trends was the large increase in arrests of smuggling new kinds of drugs, increasing from 11.1% of total cases in 2009 to 28.1% of cases last year.

The kinds of new drugs being smuggled are becoming more diverse, with 7 kinds in 2009 and 18 kinds in 2010.

The smuggling of new kinds of drugs was mainly by foreigners, and there were 95 foreigners arrested for drug smuggling [in general], an increase of 11.7% from the year before.

Among these, 28 were foreign native speaking teachers, or 29.4% of the total number of foreigners arrested.

In the past foreign native speaking teachers smuggled mostly marijuana, often through the mail, but recently there has been a great increase in cases of smuggling new kinds of drugs such as JWH-018 or Kratom.

Of those foreign native speaking teachers arrested, 18 were Americans, 5 were Canadians, 2 each were from New Zealand and England, and one was from Ireland.

Cases where international mail or courier were used increased 53% and 44% respectively but by weight dropped from 281g in 2009 to 70g last year, indicating an increasing trend towards smuggling drugs for personal use.

Meanwhile, various methods of concealment when smuggling for personal use were discovered such as in clothing (27 cases), envelopes, (23 cases), books, (13 cases), backpacks, (10 cases), CD-DVDs (10 cases), postcards (9 cases), business envelopes (7 cases), and plastic containers (7 cases), indicating that smuggling methods are becoming more clever.
From there it goes on to talk about how the customs service plans to block drug smuggling in the future. The story was reported in the Herald Gyeongje (twice), Money Today, Morning News, and the Kookmin Ilbo (three times). While the Kookmin Ilbo's title in the first two (online) articles focused on a (Korean) female university student who smuggled 400 ecstasy pills from the US, they decided to go with a slightly different title in their hard-copy edition: "The main culprits in drug smuggling are native speaking teachers... responsible for 30% of crimes by foreigners."

While foreign teachers are certainly overrepresented in the 'number of those busted' category, the question to ask might be what amount of drugs they are responsible for bringing in. As noted here (here specifically) foreign teachers usually sent "a few or tens of grams of cannabis [...] via mail or express consignments." On the other hand, last year went a bit beyond this, what with this guy bringing in 3,400 grams of hash from Hongkong in his rectum (over several trips) and this girl having a cake with 388 grams of pot (or was it a 388 gram cake with pot in it?) mailed to her.

At any rate, this announcement is well timed, considering that on January 26, the Donga Ilbo (via Brian in Jeollanam-do) announced that foreign teachers would face even stricter drug screening by the government:
The [justice] ministry will announce a revised law on immigration control that requires those suspected of drug use to undergo two tests before employment as English teachers on the E-2 visa. The law will take effect from Feb. 1.

Under the revised law, a would-be teacher should get tested for immunity with a drug diagnosis reagent authorized by the Korea Food and Drug Administration. If the test is positive, he or she must undergo another test using a mass spectrometer.

The ministry will test for methamphetamine, cocaine, opium and marijuana. If the second test is positive, issuance or extension of a visa will be denied.
A few things to note:

This was only reported in the above Donga Ilbo article. Other than the Korean translation provided by the Donga Ilbo, this hasn't been reported in the Korean-language media. Neither has AES reported on it. Which is a little odd.

It seems a little unclear at first, but after a few readings I think I understand it. The operative word seems to be that it "requires those suspected of drug use to undergo two tests [emphasis added]." Basically, "a would-be teacher should get tested" once with this new kind of test (if it is actually new), and then those who turn up something odd in the first test should get tested further. A bit of reading about testing in the US seems to suggest this is pretty normal protocol there, where a positive reaction should not be taken as the final result, but is just the prelude to further testing to confirm the presence of drugs.

Also, it seems to me that when laws are announced, they usually come into effect months later, not 5 days later. The same thing occurred with the new E-2 regulations earlier this year, with an article on July 9 announcing new regulations to begin 6 days later. Another odd thing was the fact that these new measures were announced 6 months after the most recent news report of a drug arrest of a foreign teacher. Not to say that there haven't been arrests since, but here are the arrests reported this year:

February 7 - An American teacher in Incheon is arrested for mailing himself 171 grams of pot cookies.
March 22 - the three Korean American gangsters (including one wanted for murder) were arrested along with 5 others booked for marijuana.
March 24 - A Korean American teacher in Ulsan was arrested for having a grow op, and two others were booked.
April 13 - four foreign teachers are arrested in Daegu for hash. On May 11 more details become known (one smuggled 3,400 grams of hash from Hongkong in his rectum) and up to four more are arrested.
April 14 - One American teacher is arrested in Seoul for smuggling ecstasy and pot (40 pills and 374g, respectively, in his Taiwanese girlfriend's underwear) , and nine other teachers are booked.
May 10 - Two foreign teachers including a Kiwi are busted in Seoul for importing 700g of JWH-018.
June 10 - An American in Jeju is busted for ordering 44 pot seeds. He later has to pay a fine.
June 16 - In Incheon, two university English teachers, including a Canadian are busted for importing Kratom, and 6 English teachers, including a Canadian, are busted for mailing themselves cookies and snacks made of pot.
June 21 - A female American English teacher in Jeju gets caught for having a 388 gram pot-cake mailed to herself. She later gets a suspended sentence.
July 20 - An American middle school English teacher in Busan is busted for importing some kind of new drug. He later gets a suspended sentence.

So that's a total of 34 - 38 arrests in 11 cases reported in the media. At any rate, while it's likely more arrests occurred, it seems a little odd that new measures have been announced after 6 months of no reported arrests and very light sentences in the three cases where the outcomes were reported.


Darth Babaganoosh said...

The MAIN culprits of drug smuggling? NETs are not even the MAIN cupltrit of drug smuggling among foreigners.

If 95 out of 200 cases were foreign arrests, does that not follow that 105 out of 200 were Korean? So, the MAIN culprits of drug smuggling are Koreans.

I'd like to know of the numbers of Koreans who got caught, how many were students coming back from their stay abroad? My gut says the numbers would be comparable to, if not more than, those of NETs caught.

Paul Kerry said...

Other things aside, the Dong-a article is wrong. The testing is not stricter (at least from the teachers' side).
The testing is more regulated. Testing centers will now have to be registered (seems to involve filling in a form and proving you are a medical facility). They will also have to run a second test if people fail a drug test. The GC-MS tests are time-consuming and expensive, but much more accurate than the pee-in-a-cup ones, which will often pick up all sorts of things (or not react when they should).
This should mean that testing centers can't just fail you after a piss test, and can presumably get struck off if they turn out to be "unqualified." There's also some stuff about keeping records.

or MOJ release here:

Kamiza said...

I love how Korean-Americans and Koreans holding American citizenship suddenly cease to be "Koreans" in such statistics, magically transforming into "Americans"; though, at more opportune times, they magically turn back into Koreans.

Let's re-figure those figures, including all folks of Korean ethnicity as "Koreans."

S.Korea really needs to resolve this "nationality/race" issue once and for all. I suggest dividing nationality solely by passport ownership, and 86'ing the blood/race BS back to the day Nazi Germany and Psycho-Insane Ultranationalist Japan signed the surrender papers.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

I love how Korean-Americans and Koreans holding American citizenship suddenly cease to be "Koreans" in such statistics, magically transforming into "Americans"; though, at more opportune times, they magically turn back into Koreans.

That's the rule: if they do something good, they are Korean (Hines Ward). If they do something bad, they are American (Yoo Seung-joon).

Not only do they suddenly become foreigners in the stats (well, they ARE foreigners), but I'm sure they get lumped in with E2 NETs even if they are F4s (but that's just supposition until more detailed stats can be seen).

What I wonder is: how long must a KOREAN yuhaksaeng spend time overseas before he also becomes an American/foreigner re: drug stats.

brent said...

I heard second hand how a guy imported drugs. He would send it to a Korean friend and tell them it's a present and not to open it until he was with them. Then when it arrived, he would take the drugs out of the present quickly.

I gotta say it's a pretty imaginative way of doing this.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

It's not imaginative. It's stupid. Customs is fully aware that the mail system is used by stupid people to mail drugs to themselves.

Brother One Cell got caught smuggling via the mail nearly 20 years ago. Sure, you might get away with it once or twice, but eventually you'll get caught; just ask the chick a couple years back who tried mailing a hash cake to herself.

brent said...

How could he get caught? He used different Korean friends and his name was never on anything. It's been working for quite a few years. I don't think customs is just "sitting" on it.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

So you're saying the police wouldn't eventually nail the Korean friend and squeeze him until he gives up a name?

It's a well-known Korean police technique: arrest you, confiscate your phone, investigate everyone in the saved numbers, and offer you a free pass in return for you acting as a snitch to entrap a group of others.

Just because he hasn't been caught yet, doesn't mean he won't. All it takes is ONE random inspection of an incoming package and the jig is up.

And don't say they don't randomly check packages, they do... I've had no less than a dozen of my packages inspected over the last 10 years, and I wasn't smuggling anything.

brent said...

I think customs keep a far closer eye on packages sent to foreign residents here. Of course, all it takes perhaps is once, randomness can happen. All it takes is once for a bus to hit you too.
It's all about reducing your chances of getting caught (if you are willing to risk it).

Anonymous said...

"I've had no less than a dozen of my packages inspected over the last 10 years, and I wasn't smuggling anything."

You either look guilty or you are lying which is it?

Darth Babaganoosh said...


Neither. None of the inspections are done while I am there, so it has nothing to do with a "guilty face". Either (1) I receive my package directly and I see it has been opened and resealed again, or (2) I receive a notice that I must go to the customs office and pay duty taxes on the package (all such packages are inspected).

Both are fairly common occurrences, so it's not like I'm the only one this happens to.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

And to put things in perspective, my eBay score is nearly 600, so I've probably received close to 900-1000 packages in total. Having only a dozen or so stopped and inspected out of that total is negligible.

Robert said...

I agree with Darth - I have had a number of packages opened (not while I was there) and knew they were opened and then retaped (often with a stamp telling me they had been opened by Customs) or, on only one occasion, had to go down to Customs and explain my purchase (old documents). And, DB, my Ebay score just went over 900.

Anonymous said...

I've been here for five years; so, yes, I'm a newbee.

In these five years I've met seven NETS involved with illegal drugs.

Two were smuggling weed from Shanghai, China via their arses; two were growing and distributing with their Kor-comrads, one is a major importer- making frequent trips to NZ/AUS to pick up his drugs, and two were just buyers/users.

So, yes, there are NETS bringing drugs into this country.

Or, at least there were a few years ago.

In the last five years, there have been busts of NETS for growing in Korea, smuggling from Canada via mail, etc.

Sometimes reality doesn't fit a "blog".

matt said...

And sometimes commenters can't read.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

So, yes, there are NETS bringing drugs into this country. [...] Sometimes reality doesn't fit a "blog".

Read it again. You missed that 11% of drug smuggling arrests were NETS.

The point that obviously whooooooooooshed over your head was that NETs were not "the main culprits" of drug smuggling. NETs were not even "the main culprits" of FOREIGNERS arrested for drug smuggling.

Simon said...

I played the friend of the main foreigner with the thin beard and glasses(not Richard). I'm in the scene on the terrace in front of Wendy's. I have not seen the movie. In 1984, I had just arrived in Korea to try land a teaching position. One evening a nice young Korean man came into the courtyard of the yogwan in Northern Seoul that was most popular with budget travelers with a lonely planet guide to Korea in their backpack. He was looking for many extras (western guys) in a Korean movie for one night of shooting and for two guys who were going to stay in Seoul for a couple of weeks for more extensive roles. I had been an extra a couple of times in movies in Hong Kong and the Philippines. So I thought nothing of it. Bernd, a guy I had befriended at the yogwan, and I agreed to take the two roles and also be in the shoot where there were many guys needed. We asked what kind of movie it was and what kind of scenes we would be doing. We were told it would be a couple of party scenes and would involve some dancing. I was not looking forward to the dancing... The Korean also wanted our passports so they were sure we would stay in Korea and complete all the scenes we would be required to do. The other extras wouldn't have to because they would be doing one night of shooting which was going to be in two days time. Bernd and I discussed in German about handing over our passports. I advised Bernd to not even show them our passports and use fake names as I had done as an extra in the Philipines and Hong Kong. Both Bernd and I wanted to settle in Korea for a few years teaching English and didn't want to get kicked out by immigration. The Korean man said he would have to discuss it with his boss. I was worried he would get my real name from the lady who ran the yogwan. He told us he would let us know when he came to pick up the whole group the day after tomorrow. Next post will be about the first night of shooting.

matt said...

A fascinating post! I look forward to the next one. (I reposted your comment on the 'Queen Bee' post here.