South Korean law enforcement authorities have made significant progress in their crackdown on the smuggling and distribution of synthetic cannabis within the American military community based in South Korea. In a recent development, South Korean police arrested two individuals and questioned more than a dozen American soldiers in connection with this illegal drug operation after conducting raids at two US army bases.
The Pyeongtaek police department revealed this information in a news release on Wednesday, shedding light on the operations that took place in May. These meticulously planned raids were carried out following intelligence shared by the US Army Criminal Investigation Division.
The operations unfolded at two key US military installations in South Korea: Camp Humphreys, located south of Seoul and known as the largest US military installation outside of the United States, and Camp Casey, situated to the north of the capital city.
Police videos of the raids depict officers entering residential buildings and placing handcuffs on several individuals, both men and women. Subsequently, two individuals, one South Korean and one Filipino, were apprehended on charges of alleged drug distribution. After their arrests, they were transferred to the prosecution for indictment, as confirmed by the police to CNN.
In addition to the two arrests, another 20 individuals, including 17 US soldiers, were brought in for questioning but were not detained. They have been sent to the prosecution for further investigation.
It is essential to note that South Korea strictly prohibits the recreational use of cannabis, and the possession or use of the drug carries severe penalties. Violators can face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million Korean won (approximately $37,600).
The police news release revealed that their investigation spanned from May to August of this year and unveiled a 24-year-old American soldier who allegedly smuggled 350 millilitres (11.8 oz) of liquid synthetic cannabis into South Korea. The contraband was sent from the US mainland via military mail. Subsequently, the soldier is believed to have distributed and sold it to other US soldiers stationed at Camp Humphreys and Camp Casey.
According to the police, the soldier in question supplied the synthetic cannabis to a Filipino distributor, who then sold it to a South Korean distributor and other US soldiers. During the course of the raids, the authorities seized 80 millilitres of synthetic cannabis, 27 electronic cigarette devices, and nearly $13,000 in cash, which is believed to be the proceeds from drug sales.
Police-released videos displayed the confiscated items, which included rolls of $50 and $100 bills, numerous cell phones, and colourful cylindrical tubes resembling vape pens.
The police statement also underscored that they are actively cooperating with the US Army Criminal Investigation Division to investigate the involvement of the US soldiers, trace the alleged drug sender in the United States, and uncover the details of the smuggling route.
This collaborative effort between South Korean law enforcement and the US military signifies a determined stance against drug-related activities within the American military community in South Korea, emphasising the gravity of the issue and the commitment to maintaining a drug-free environment within the host country.