The story of illegal drug distribution across the North Korean border and into China is now being told with a bit of flair in the pages of Newsweek.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I find fieldwork in the Chinese borderlands with North Korea always to be an exciting process. Exciting though it may be, it is a process that — speaking for myself — has not been made more exciting by exposure to crystal meth. In fact I don’t think I would recognize crystal meth if it was put on my breakfast cereal. Moreover, it was only yesterday that I finally learned how to say “crystal meth” in Chinese — 甲基安非他命.
(To my former students who may be reading — why did you never ask me how to say “crystal meth” in Chinese? Do you not read the daily complilation of North Hamgyong and Ryanggang cell phone informant conversation write ups which constitute the bulk of Daily NK sources about the meth trade? Did you think that such a linguistically and culturally fraught question would instead represent merely a bit of trivia, a cerebral divet, a trivet of myopia of no consequence to our respective intellectual lives? You never asked me. Damn you all!)
The foregone and falsely cynical de rigeur professorial abdication of intellectual responsibility notwithstanding, I did manage to track down some data which has not been pulled into the Anglophone public eye as regards the meth problem along the Sino-North Korean border. And thus:
1. This 2009 piece from no less than Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) about the sentencing of 9 drug dealers in Jilin province to death, one of whom is a North Korean surnamed Kim who was planning to bring meth into South Korea via China;
2. This interesting bit of comparison to much more heavily-populated Zhejiang province, which as of 2010 statistics had more than 103,000 registered drug addicts (“drug smokers”).
3. The Yanbian Public Security Bureau’s work priorities for 2011, in particular point 5:
Not incidentally, the Bureau leaves its press liasion number at the end of the release; they also have a nice Weibo feed, which is akin to Twitter but without all the dissident celebrity Chinese bloggers and Tibetan and Uighur activists.
The slogan 打击“黄赌毒” also seems to be a signpost for some of the anti-drug efforts.
4. Much discussion of all of this on Tianya, a Chinese BBS, including debate over the less-than-constructive role that North Korea is playing.
Finally, because I became more aware of things by spending several key years of my life on the east side of Cleveland Ohio, and because crackheads in Seattle’s Chinatown have since reminded me of the importance of asking for a very specific amount of money for anything, dear readers, for the four rocks of crystalized information which I have cooked up for you, I should like a sum of seven U.S. dollars. This money, just as it would if I were bartering a broken electronic razor to a perfect stranger through the scratched plexiglass window of a barricaded gas station in the middle of the night under flourescent light in North America, will allow me to get through the next several hours before my next exhalation in the form of a post.
(Now, on to some Heinrich von Kleist, thank you very much.)