North Korea Says Its Nuclear Ambitions Remain
North Korean government used to produce methamphetamine, report says

People in North Korea greet one another by offering a sniff of crystal meth, in the same way tea would be offered in other parts of the world, a report has said.

According to Barbara Demick, writing for the Los Angeles Times, the North Korean government produced methamphetamine during the 1990s and since it stopped, entrepreneurial citizens have taken to producing the drug themselves.

There is also evidence to suggest that meth produced in North Korea is smuggled out to countries including China and the US. In December, five smugglers caught in Thailand said their original produce had come from North Korea.

According to her report, there is little stigma attached to meth use, with some people using it as a treatment for colds, as a pick-me-up or to stay up late while studying. It is also used to curb appetites and is offered as casually as a cup of tea, Demick writes.

North Korea crowd
People gather at a rally at Kim Il-Sung square, PyongyangReuters

Lee Saera, from Hoeryong, said: "If you go to somebody's house it is a polite way to greet somebody by offering them a sniff. It is like drinking coffee when you're sleepy, but ice is so much better."

It is thought the North Korean government is not strict in terms of its drug laws. A recent report showed that marijuana was widely used among poorer people in the communist nation.

North Korean leaders used to organise production of the drug to raise money and when it was produced, it was strictly to be exported. The DEA suggested there may be leftover stockpiles of the drug as recent samples seized were 99% pure.

However, since the government stopped production, North Koreans have taken it upon themselves to create the drug.

Kim Yong Chol, who fled North Korea last year, said: "North Korean people learn fast to reuse their skills."

Former methamphetamine dealer Park Kyung Ok said the penatly could be lenient.

"If you are caught once or twice, with only a small amount like me, you can get away with it if you have connections. But a third time, you will be in real trouble."