Social media and mobile chat are emerging as thriving markets for illegal drugs

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SEOUL, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) — Over the past five years, a quarter of drug traffickers have used online platforms, including social media and mobile messengers, to trade in illegal narcotics, researchers have revealed. police data this Friday.

According to National Police Agency data submitted to Representative Kang Sun-woo of the opposition Democratic Party, a total of 49,850 people were apprehended for drug-related offenses from 2018 to August this year.

Among them, 10,772 people or 21.6% exchanged drugs via social media sites, mobile chat apps and other online platforms, and 2,443 people or 5% used the dark web and encrypted virtual assets. The rest bought and sold drugs offline.

The statistics also showed a sharp rise in the number of teenage offenders, with their numbers rising 57.7% year-on-year to 164 in 2019, 47% to 241 in 2020 and 28.2% to 309 in 2021.

Between January and August this year, 227 teenagers were apprehended for drug trafficking.

The data also revealed that about three-quarters of drug-related criminals during the period were first-time offenders.

The percentage of first-time offenders increased from 72.3% in 2018 to 74.3% in 2019, 78.5% in 2020, 79% in 2021 and 80.5% between January and June of this year.

Police have attributed the increase in the number of teenagers and first-time criminals to the easy access to drugs offered by online markets.

“In addition to punitive measures, we should quickly propose fundamental changes to illegal drug policy and countermeasures at the national level, including preventive education,” Rep. Kang said.
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