Monday, December 05, 2011

Teacher busted for spice

Yesterday afternoon Yonhap published the following article, the first of 17 on the topic:
Native speaking instructor smuggles 'spice' which is 5 times more powerful than marijuana

Seoul Dongbu prosecutor's office, 4th investigative division, has arrested and charged a 23 year old native speaking English instructor, J, from Australia for smuggling a new kind of drug named 'spice,' (JWH-018) in contravention of the drug control law.

According to prosecutors, J has been charged for smuggling 24 grams of spice through international mail on two occasions between June and October this year.

The pharmacological effects of spice are five times stronger than marijuana and can continue for up to 6 hours, and recently it's come to light that it is spreading in Korea in places like clubs.

J, who dropped out of high school, married a Korean studying in Australia last year and came to Korea, and then easily got a university diploma from an online diploma mill and used it to get a job working as a native speaking instructor at a hagwon in Ilsan, investigators found.

A prosecution official said, "In October when he was hired as a foreign instructor by the hagwon, he had a health check which included a drug and marijuana test, but there is concern that it did not work properly as a filter as it did not show that he had taken this new kind of drug."
"I'll mail myself some spice through the mail! They'll never know!" Nice one, J.

The Segye Ilbo adds that Incheon Airport Customs intercepted the most recent package and he was arrested at the motel in Seoul's Seongdong-gu listed as the receiving address. A prosecution official also adds that there's concern he spread it to students or people at the motel, so there are plans to expand the investigation.

Newsis, in an article titled, "Native speaking instructor caught trying to smuggle JWH-018, a new kind of drug stronger than methamphetamine," assures us that "JWH-018, which was developed as an air freshener but abused as a narcotic, is a synthetic drug stronger than methamphetamine." Keep that in mind the next time someone here asks you if you've ever tried marijuana or heroin. The 'author' of the article also apparently decided it would be better to make him a middle school dropout, rather than a high school dropout.

I really don't know the first thing about synthetic marijuana and its effects compared to the real thing, but Wikipedia tells us that the binding affinity for the CB1 receptor for THC is Ki = 40.7±1.7 nm, as compared to JWH-018, which is Ki = 9.00±5.00 nm. And no, I don't know what that means either. According to this site:
The simple explanation is [...]:
"In simple terms, a lower Ki == a greater affinity."
The greater the affinity the more potent the chemical (kind of):
"Molecules with higher affinities for target proteins usually require lower doses(/concentrations)."
So the lower the Ki value generally means a smaller dose will be required. It doesn't translate 100% because there's a lot more involved then just the receptor and the chemical but it's still a useful indicator.
So it would seem JWH-018 is stronger than THC, but it's not clear by how much. To be sure, saying that it's 'stronger than methamphetamine' is pretty pointless - on the one hand, it's kind of like comparing apples and comets; on the other, the comparative strength or weakness of an intoxicating substance usually determines how much is consumed. Drinking three bottles of beer won't raise any eyebrows, but drinking three bottles of soju will.

One other thing: we know he had to take a drug test, but that doesn't necessarily mean he was on an E-2 visa; according to an amendment to the hagwon law passed in August, native speakers working in hagwons must submit drug tests and criminal record checks. I don't know if that applies to F-visa teachers or not, and still have no clue if it will or not because his visa status isn't mentioned.


Anonymous said...

Do synthetic cannabinoids like "Spice" show up on cannabinoids tests or will the government be setting up new tests?

Anonymous said...

Officially, yes. If he was working for a hagwon that registered him with the local office of education, then he had to have the health check, drug test and background check now required even for F-2s
and @B-Wagner
Depends on what level test they're using and what spice brand was involved, they all have slightly different chemical properties and different tests use different markers.

Anonymous said...

Can we not take it for granted that a 23 year old Australian working in Ilsan was teaching in a hagwon, without having to be headline a 'native speaking instructor'? For what it's worth, it doesn't really surprise me.

@cik I think it was Schwartz but I can't say for certain.

Anonymous said...

"Spice" sounds like an American 80's cop show nickname for a new drug that's ruining young people's lives.

Maybe that's the point.

Anonymous said...

Spice? Cake?

Unknown said...

If he is 23 then he would've left school at 16, dropout or not. It's possible the other paper didn't do their research on the public school system in Aus. I mean, I suppose if you compare it to Korea then the system only *seems like* it goes to 중학교 but that's not the case. Both the UK and Aus have/had similar systems.