The Korea Herald


Four Yemenis investigated for illegal drug use: police

By Claire Lee

Published : Oct. 21, 2018 - 16:19

    • Link copied

Four Yemeni nationals are being investigated by police on suspicion of having consumed Khat, a plant classified as an illegal narcotic in Korea, according to the Jeju police.

The four individuals, who entered Korea earlier this year, underwent a health examination as part of their application for refugee status. Authorities said cathinone, a stimulant that is illegal in Korea, was detected in their urine samples.

South Koreans protest against asylum seekers in central Seoul. (Yonhap) South Koreans protest against asylum seekers in central Seoul. (Yonhap)

Earlier this year, 458 Yemeni asylum seekers arrived in Korea and applied for refugee status. None of them were recognized as refugees, but 399 of them were issued renewable one-year humanitarian visas. Thirty-four Yemenis, including the four currently under investigation, were denied both the right to stay and refugee status.

The four suspects told Korean authorities that they had been consuming Khat before entering Korea in May, according to the Jeju police.

But police say that as cathinone usually only remains in the system for about a week, there is a possibility that they had brought the plants to the country and consumed then while staying in Jeju.

The Yemenis had been staying on Korea’s southernmost island for at least two months before applying for refugee status and undergoing the health check, they added.

Although Khat is illegal in Korea, it is legal in many countries in the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, including Yemen. Chewing the plant is known to cause euphoria, excitement and mood changes, among others.

The arrival of Yemeni asylum seekers has fueled Islamophobia and anti-immigration sentiment among Koreans. On Saturday, some 1,000 Koreans gathered in central Seoul to protest against the asylum seekers, calling them “fake refugees” and demanded their deportation. Some called for the country’s asylum laws to be scrapped. 

By Claire Lee (