Korean teenagers, families fear growing exposure to illegal drugs

2023.04.10 12:25:02 | 2023.04.10 14:42:02

[Photo by Park Hyung-ki]이미지 확대

[Photo by Park Hyung-ki]

Fear is growing among South Korean teenagers that they are no longer safe from getting exposed to drugs after a recent incident in southern Seoul where random individuals gave out drug-laced beverages to several students after tricking them that they are helpful for academic concentration.

Maeil Business Newspaper has learned Sunday that Korean students are highly exposed to illegal drugs in their day-to-day lives. Drug trafficking schemes are evolving faster than authorities can respond with crackdowns or other measures.

Last week, random high school students in Daechi-dong, an area in southern Seoul well known for private tutoring academies, or cram schools, were handed out drug-laced drinks by the accused individuals, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

The incident has sparked a shock wave across the private education industry and students and their families as they call for stricter and more vigilant monitoring from authorities.

Teenagers that are avid social media users are increasingly becoming targets of unsolicited drug advertisements on social media. Experts call for an online crackdown.

Officials in the private tutoring industry on Sunday sent text messages to the parents highlighting preventive actions in response to a police request for cooperation. Both teachers and parents are telling students not to drink or eat anything given to them by strangers.

“I’m driving my kid to school nowadays, so my kid doesn’t need to walk alone,” said one parent of a high school student. “I’ve heard of spiked drinks at nightclubs, but I never thought my kid would be exposed to such a danger. I gave them a portable tumbler, but I’m still worried,” another parent said.

Methamphetamine [Photo by Lee Seung-hwan]이미지 확대

Methamphetamine [Photo by Lee Seung-hwan]

The recent drug-laced drinks scandal has been particularly worrisome as it targeted students that are vulnerable to stress due to the university entrance exam. “Competition is so fierce in this neighborhood that people will do anything if it’s something that is said to be good for a student’s performance,” said one tutor at a private academy. “It seems like there isn’t any other way but to tell the students to pay attention.”

Authorities point out that drug use is growing among teenagers recently, with drugs being promoted as pills “for fun” or as slimming pills.

“Kids try the drugs without any resistance because they got them from their peers as pills ‘for fun,’ and they don’t know that they are drugs. Once they get addicted, they buy those drugs from dealers on social media,” said an attorney specialized in narcotics cases.

Twitter, Telegram, and other social media platforms all have illegal drug-related spam posts without any filter or oversight. The sellers on those platforms handle a wide variety of drugs, from methamphetamine and ecstasy to sleeping pills like zolpidem.

One gram of methamphetamines is being sold for 700,000 won ($530.83), and ketamine and marijuana for 300,000 won.

Analysts say that the growing exposure of drugs to teenagers has also been influenced by a series of celebrities who have been caught for drug use or possession. Some are concerned that teenagers may not be afraid of drugs, partly because of the punishment too light for drug offenders

as seen in the recent case of a celebrity composer and singer who was convicted of drug use on multiple occasions but saw a suspension in his sentence.

The number of teenage drug offenders, in fact, is on a steep rise.

According to data from the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, there were 481 drug offenders under the age of 19 last year, more than eight fold the 58 offenders in 2013.

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]