US State Department: 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) is an annual report by the Department of State to Congress prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act. It describes the efforts of key countries to attack all aspects of the international drug trade in Calendar Year 2009. Volume I (PDF) covers drug and chemical control activities, and beginning on page 488, there is a profile on the DPRK:

North Korea

I. Summary
There is insufficient evidence to say with certainty that state-sponsored trafficking by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) has stopped entirely in 2009. Nonetheless, the paucity of public reports of drug trafficking with a direct DPRK connection suggests strongly that such high-profile drug trafficking has either ceased, or has been reduced very sharply. Trafficking of methamphetamine along the DPRK-China border continues. There are indications that international drug traffickers can purchase methamphetamine in kilogram quantities in some of the major towns on the Chinese side of the DPRK-China border. Other criminality involving DPRK territory, such as counterfeit cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting/passing of U.S. currency (supernotes), continues.

II. Status of Country
No confirmed instances of large-scale drug trafficking involving the DPRK state or its nationals were reported in 2009. This is the seventh consecutive year that there were no known instances of large-scale methamphetamine or heroin trafficking to either Japan or Taiwan with direct DPRK state institution involvement. From the mid- 1990s through to 2002/2003, numerous instances of narcotics trafficking involving DPRK persons and important state assets, such as sea-going vessels and military patrol boats, were recorded in Taiwan and Japan.

Press reporting suggests that methamphetamine trafficking along the DPRK-China border continues. These reports detail the activities of organized criminal groups arranging methamphetamine shipments to destinations in Asia from the major towns near the DPRK-China border (e.g., Dandong, Yanji).

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2009
Law Enforcement Efforts. The source of relatively small quantities of methamphetamine seized elsewhere in Asia can occasionally be traced back to the China-DPRK border area. Local press reports in Asia describe apprehensions of traffickers smuggling methamphetamine and indicate that arrangements to purchase that methamphetamine were made in towns near the China-DPRK border. These reports suggest that trafficking of methamphetamine continues along the China-DPRK border and they raise the question of whether or not local DPRK officials might be aware or even complicit in the drug trade. There is no clear evidence of a central role for DPRK state institutions in selling methamphetamine or organizing the trafficking of methamphetamine. Evidence of direct DPRK state involvement in drug trafficking to
Taiwan and Japan emerged regularly in the past.

Reports of non-narcotics related acts of criminality in the DPRK suggest that DPRK tolerance of criminal behavior may exist on a larger, organized scale, even if no large-scale narcotics trafficking incidents involving the state itself have come to light. Press, industry, and law enforcement reports of DPRK links to large-scale counterfeit cigarette trafficking in the North Korean Export Processing Zone at Rajiin (or Najin) continue. It is unclear the extent to which DPRK authorities are complicit in this illegal activity, although it is likely that they are aware of it, given the relatively high-profile media reports. In addition, counterfeit $100 U.S. notes called “supernotes” (because they are so difficult to detect), continue to turn up in various countries, including in the United States. There are reports, for example, of supernote seizures in San Francisco and a very large supernote seizure in Pusan, South Korea during 2008 and 2009. Supernotes are uniquely associated with the DPRK, but it is not clear if recent seizures are notes which have been circulating for some time, or if they are recently-counterfeited new notes.

Agreements and Treaties. The DPRK is a party to the 1988 United Nations (UN) Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

Cultivation/Production. For many years, it has been alleged that poppies are cultivated in the DPRK, with the opium converted into heroin and then trafficked by state organs for profit. However, it has not been possible to confirm such illicit cultivation, and there has not been a heroin trafficking incident with a DPRK connection for many years. There are also several known factories in the DPRK that could produce very pure heroin and methamphetamine drugs, and there have been cases of large-scale smuggling of pure methamphetamine drugs from the DPRK to Japan and Taiwan as recently as 2002.

IV. U.S. Initiatives and Programs
The Department of State has no evidence to support a clear finding that DPRK state narco-trafficking has either stopped or is continuing. The absence of any seizures linked directly to DPRK state institutions, especially after a period in which seizures of very large quantities of drugs regularly occurred, does suggest considerably less state trafficking, and perhaps a complete end to it.

On the other hand, press reports of continuing seizures of methamphetamine in Asia, which can be traced back to an apparent DPRK source, suggest continuing manufacture and sale of DPRK methamphetamine to criminal traffickers. Large-scale trafficking of counterfeit cigarettes from the DPRK territory also continues and suggests that enforcement against notorious organized criminality in the DPRK is lax.

It is likely that the North Korean government has sponsored narcotics trafficking and other criminal activities in the past. The Department of State has insufficient information to confirm that the DPRK-state is no longer involved in manufacture and trafficking of illicit drugs, but if such activity persists, it is certainly on a much smaller scale.

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