Police across the country apprehended 2,626 people on drug charges in the second quarter and detained 614, the National Police Agency said Tuesday.
Teenagers and people in their 20s made up 40 percent of all those apprehended, an increase of about 28 percent on year. People in their 30s accounted for 24.5 percent of the total.
Police in South Gyeongsang Province brought in 42 teenagers accused of violating the Narcotics Control Act by obtaining fentanyl patches on false pretenses, then selling the patches or using them for recreation. As a synthetic opioid used for pain management, fentanyl is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.
Of those who were apprehended, about 34 percent allegedly used the internet to buy or sell drugs -- a jump from the previous year of over 20 percent. Police said more people were using the dark web and cryptocurrency for this purpose.
The Incheon Metropolitan Police arrested 166 people on charges of smuggling drugs over the dark web and laundering money through cryptocurrency purchasing agencies.
According to police, the number of foreigners accused of drug offenses saw a slight on-year increase, as did the number of people accused of abusing prescription medications.
Police warned that as contact-free deals expand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more drug distribution could happen through social media, the dark web and cryptocurrency.
With drug use increasing among younger people, the importance of prevention and education is being highlighted. To that end, police are cooperating with authorities such as the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Ministry of Education.
The nationwide crackdown showed that drugs have permeated society, police said, and preemptive safety measures are needed across educational institutions and local governments as the average age of an accused drug offender decreases.
“Drugs, even if taken alone, are likely to lead to accidents or crimes while being hallucinated. (Taking drugs) can have a negative impact on not only the takers themselves, but also friends, family and society,” the National Police Agency said.
“In addition, even if one lays hands on drugs for once out of curiosity, it is very hard to stop because it is strongly addictive. It is important to receive proper addiction treatment.”
Drug addicts, if they turn themselves in, may be eligible for reduced charges and can receive assistance to undergo treatment, police said. Reports from the public are encouraged, and the authorities guarantee anonymity and offer compensation.
By Kan Hyeong-woo (email@example.com