The Korea Herald


Drug ring members jailed for smuggling W160b worth of meth

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : March 14, 2024 - 17:38

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(Herald DB) (Herald DB)

The Busan High Court on Thursday handed down a 30-year prison sentence to the leader of a crime ring that smuggled 165.6 billion won ($125.7 million) worth of methamphetamine into the country. The man's accomplices were also given jail terms.

The man in his 60s was also given a fine of 770 million won for smuggling the drugs and 65,000 cartons of cigarettes into Korea, while his accomplice, also in his 60s, was given a 25-year prison sentence and a 778.7 million won fine. Three other accomplices were each given suspended prison sentences and a fine of 389.3 million won for the part they played in smuggling the cigarettes.

The accused were all previously sentenced based on drug smuggling charges, but an appellate trial handed down punishments for the smuggling of cigarettes as well, based on additional evidence provided by the prosecution.

The court called the smuggling of methamphetamine an "atrocious crime that damages the whole of society."

"(The methamphetamine hall was) massive in size, 50 kilograms in total and worth over 160 billion won, and could potentially be injected by 1.65 million people, which leaves the court no choice but to hand down a harsh punishment. ... Based on the other crimes ... it appears that (the defendants') tendency to abide by the law is very low," the court said when delivering its verdict.

The smugglers are thought to have hidden the drugs and brought them into the country from Thailand in December of 2022. The case constituted the third-largest drug bust in South Korean history. The smugglers hid the drugs inside garbage cans, which they moved from Busan to Daegu by truck.

Ironically, it was the crime ring's side operation of smuggling cigarettes that led to their capture. Police officers visited the ring leader's residence in January 2023 while investigating allegations of cigarette smuggling when they stumbled upon the man overseeing an illegal drug operation.

None of the drugs had been distributed locally yet, according to officials, as they were found before hitting the black market.

South Korean law harshly punishes the distribution of drugs and other smuggling crimes, but those found guilty of particularly grave violations can be subject to even more severe punishment, according to the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Crimes.