Chinese tourists visiting neighboring North Korea are buying large quantities of bargain bags of weed, then selling it for a tidy profit upon returning home to China where cannabis is highly illegal and drug laws harshly enforced.
According to reports from defectors, visitors and experts, North Korea either has no law against the sale and consumption of weed or, if it there is a law, it is largely unenforced.
In fact, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA) growing and selling weed in North Korea has become an easy way for poor farmers to earn decent money.
Along the border with China and Russia, an area called Rason—North Korea’s special economic zone—has become the epicenter of the pot trade. A kilo of weed can be picked up for as little a $6 in Rason, according to UK’s the Sun.
In North Korea, cannabis is classified as an oilseed crop, unlike many other countries—including our very own—where it is viewed as a narcotic with no redeeming value.
Because the plant is so widely grown outdoors, most North Koreans do not realize it is categorized as an illicit drug in other countries. And ranked as the most isolated country in the world, North Koreans unfortunately don’t know much about what goes on outside their borders.
North Korea has been growing marijuana, known locally as yeoksam, legally since the early 1980s, a source told RFA’s Korean service.
“[Former leader] Kim Il-sung extensively encouraged the cultivation of yeoksam to solve a cooking oil shortage in the early 1980s,” reported RFA.
Some people still grow it for cooking oil, but most cannabis grows wild from seeds of previously cultivated plants.
North Koreans previously used marijuana fodder for rabbits they kept, though now more people have come to realize that it has another far more valuable use.
“North Korean people never thought that yeoksam could bring them money until now,” the source said. “It grows outdoors and can be seen everywhere in North Korea.”
However, hold off on the travel plans.
Super cheap weed notwithstanding, North Korea is not for the faint of heart—for many, many reasons.
So, from the unsolicited advice department: Don’t go there. Period.
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