Wednesday 29 January 2020

North Korean builders given 'crystal meth' to work faster

Kim Jong-un: facing sanctions over nuclear weapons tests. Photo: Reuters/Korean Central News Agency
Kim Jong-un: facing sanctions over nuclear weapons tests. Photo: Reuters/Korean Central News Agency

James Rothwell

North Korean workers are being given a powerful methamphetamine known as 'ice' in the hope that it will speed up a major construction project, according to reports.

Project managers in the capital Pyongyang are said to be under so much pressure to finish the job on time that they have resorted to openly providing builders with the drug.

'Ice' is a form of the powerful stimulant methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth.

When snorted or inhaled, crystal meth gives users a sense of euphoria, increased energy levels and a suppressed appetite. The effects can last 12 hours.

Hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens have been roped in to finish the project, which consists of a 70-floor skyscraper and more than 60 apartment blocks.

It was approved earlier this year by the country's leader Kim Jong-un in defiance of tough sanctions placed on the hermit state over its nuclear weapons tests.

"Project managers are now openly providing drugs to construction workers so that they will work faster," a construction source in Pyongyang told Radio Free Asia. "(They) are undergoing terrible sufferings in their work."

Human-rights workers in Asia said the working conditions amounted to slave labour and urged the UN to take further action against Kim Jong-un.

Phil Robertson, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said: "It's going to be hard to verify this, but if it is confirmed, then we utterly condemn it.

"The real issue here is slave labour and our immediate reaction to this is that if they want faster workers, why not pay them, instead of giving them drugs?"

Mr Robertson added: "It is a throwback to the Second World War, when governments regularly resorted to forcing labour of their citizens."

North Korea has been producing methamphetamine to increase its funds since the 1970s. It was initially sold as a medicine, but quickly became a hugely popular drug. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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