North Korean Construction Workers Taking Meth to Speed up Work
According to recent reports, methamphetamine is being distributed to North Korean construction workers in a bid to speed up progress on a skyscraper project in the capital city of Pyongyang. Project managers are dispensing what is commonly known as “crystal meth” or “ice” to builders taking it to quickly complete the seventy-story apartment complex.
“Project managers are now openly providing drugs to construction workers so that they will work faster,” an anonymous source indicated. “Project managers at a building site in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang are openly supplying their exhausted workforce with powerful methamphetamines called ‘ice’. [They] are undergoing terrible sufferings in their work.”
Hundreds of thousands of construction workers are believed to be working on the infamous skyscraper, which is part of a sixty-building development on Pyongyang’s Ryomyung Street. Graffiti was found on one of the building sites that read “Pyongyang speed is drug speed,” which sparked the investigation into whether illegal drugs were being used to speed along the process.
The effects methamphetamine can have on workers in the construction industry are disturbing. When inhaled, the drug increases alertness and lowers inhibitions, but can also induce confusion and aggression which would be especially dangerous in a profession like this in which the safety of workers is already constant at risk. The euphoria once meth is inhaled can last for up to twelve hours. What’s more, the drug is highly addictive, and the long-term risks of use include an increased chance of heart attack, brain damage, and even psychoses.
North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel was expected to open in 2013 and is still not complete. In 2015, the country announced it was embarking on a “great golden age of construction.” Apparently, in order to do so, the government has decided it is okay to force workers into taking illegal drugs.
Forcing workers into taking meth is equitable to drug-induced slave labor, according to a human rights worker in Asia, which should prompt action from the United Nations. “It’s going to be hard to verify that this is happening, but if it is confirmed then we utterly condemned it,” said Phil Robertson, Human Right’s Watch’s Asia director. “The real issue here is slave labor, and our immediate reaction to this was that if they want faster workers why not actually pay them, instead of resorting to giving them drugs?” He added, “The North Korean government wants to finish these buildings to somehow prove that they are a developed country. But this kind of forced labor has been unilaterally condemned by the international community. It is a throwback to the Second World War when governments regularly resorted to forcing labor of their citizens.”
Defector Kim Hyeong-soo said, “The North Korean government initiated the illegal drugs, but now it’s expanded to the general market.” In 2013, there were many reports issued the country was suffering from a methamphetamine epidemic, and North Korea has been said to have a long history of manufacturing and exploiting the drug, both to fuel legions of workers and to sell on the international black market to garner profits.