The repressed appetite and heightened sense of stimulation offered by crystal methamphetamine, otherwise known as crystal meth, has made it an increasingly popular option for dieting among the wives of Party cadres and trade workers in North Korea. The growing practice has led to mounting concerns about substance abuse problems within the country, Daily NK has learned. 

“More wives of cadres and traders these days are purchasing methamphetamine,” a source from Yanggang Province told Daily NK. “Those who are already addicted use them for pleasure, and there has recently been an increase in those who get it for dieting purposes.” 

Daily NK spoke with an additional source in Yanggang Province who corroborated this news. 

“(They say) going on meth completely suppresses the appetite and keeps you alert even in the middle of the night when you should be asleep,” he said, explaining that these women find it attractive since it not only makes them feel good but also offers the added benefit of weight loss, contributing to the rising numbers of these dual-purpose users.  

Many women in this contingent convince their husbands, namely Party cadres or heads of foreign-currency earning enterprises, to give them money so they can buy these drugs to help them lose weight. Currently in the city of Hyesan, 1 gram of meth is sold for 150 RMB by smugglers. On average, people use roughly 0.1-0.3 grams in one sitting, but the most severe addicts can consume up to 1 gram in a single day, according to the source. 

“Taking meth in the North is nothing shocking, and these officials find themselves permitting the practice because they like their wives to be slim,” he explained. 

Demand is so high, in fact, that one such wife in Hyejang of Hyesan City was even lodging at her brokers’ home to buy her supply, leading to fingerpointing from neighboring residents. “The crackdown on meth has become more severe, so these kinds of things are happening all the time,” the source asserted. 

The step-up on meth crackdowns along the Sino-North Korean border and harsher punishments for users have failed to reduce the number of addicts. 

“The reason why the numbers are not dropping is because law enforcement officials and cadre members all have addicts at home,” he noted. “Officials involved in the crackdowns fear their wives will get caught up in things and make things difficult for them, so they just turn a blind eye.” 

Naturally, the ‘dieting trend’ has elicited incredulous reactions among ordinary residents, who point out that “the average person has no time, let alone opportunity, to gain weight between mandatory work mobilizations and a shortage of food.” Disgruntled, beleaguered residents point out that if cadres would share some of that food around, “they wouldn’t eat it all alone and get fat.”  

Last year, the North Korean authorities added five extra clauses to Article 60 of the country's criminal code, which pertains to attempts to overthrow the state. Using or dealing in drugs appears in the re-codified offenses, along with illegal phone contact with foreigners, including South Koreans; viewing South Korean dramas or DVDs and listening to [foreign] radio broadcasts; transnational human and sex trafficking; and aiding and abetting defectors and leaking state secrets. The additional clauses stipulate harsh punishments for these acts, which could in principle incur the death penalty.

                                                                                                                                                    (Daily NK)