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A North Korean spy chief who defected said he helped manufacture crystal meth to make money for the regime

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Kim Jong-Il
A military officer in front of a giant portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, 2013. Jason Lee/Reuters
  • A former North Korean spy told the BBC he helped build a crystal meth lab for the regime.

  • Kim Kuk-song said the funds were used by Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un's father.

  • Drug use is rife in North Korea where crystal meth is used casually by many citizens, reports said.

A North Korean spy chief who defected to South Korea described building a crystal meth lab to raise funds for the regime.

Kim Kuk Song spent 30 years working for North Korea's spy agencies, where he rose through the ranks before fleeing to Seoul in 2014. Once there he worked for South Korean intelligence.

In an interview with the BBC, Kim said that he was ordered in the 1990s - under Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il - to raise money for the regime during a disastrous famine from 1994 to 1998 known as the "Arduous March."

Kim told the BBC that to do this he set up a production line for crystal meth, also known as "ice," in North Korea.

He said: "The production of drugs in Kim Jong Il's North Korea peaked during the Arduous March. At that time, the Operational Department ran out of revolutionary funds for the Supreme Leader.

"After being assigned to the task, I brought three foreigners from abroad into North Korea, built a production base in the training center of the 715 liaison office of the Workers' Party, and produced drugs."

He said money raised from the drug production went to fund Kim Jong Il's lavish lifestyle.

Both Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong-Un, the current North Korean leader, are known for their extravagance, which contrasts starkly with the poverty of their people.

The BBC noted that it couldn't verify Kim's claims about producing crystal meth.

But they align with other reports describing how North Korea manufactured methamphetamines through the 1990s and 2000s and exported them for money.

North Korea began to clamp down in the mid-2000s, The New York Times reported, prompting people involved in the industry to instead make it illegally.

The use of crystal meth is now said to be rife in North Korea, and has increased in recent years, Insider's Jacob Shamsian reported.

Many North Koreans use crystal meth as casually as cigarettes, World Politics Review reported, while citizens regularly give hard drugs as presents for the lunar new year, one of the most important Korean holidays.

The drug is said to be popular because it is so widely accessible and can be useful in combating hunger.

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