North Korea might be struggling with an unprecedented crystal meth epidemic. Reporting a story on the drug trade between North Korea and China, I spoke with dozens of sources: defectors, academics, policemen and even one North Korean crystal meth dealer, and I heard estimates that anywhere from zero to 50 percent of the population have tried the drug.This is all well and good (and has been oft repeated) but the author hides the lede which I think is most important:
I painted a picture of the drug’s abuse for my article: part escape from the desolation of North Korean life, part medicine in a country with practically no healthcare infrastructure. Yet after months of research I have to admit that I have no idea what is actually happening inside North Korea.
I have no idea how many of my U.S. college classmates tried crystal meth, and I spent four years among them in one of the most open societies in the world.The fact is, we actually have a considerable amount of information about the DPRK from official sources, defectors, foreign visitors, intelligence sources etc. etc. But at the end of the day trying to come to a valid conclusion about any society, nation, or group of people is much, much harder than it might seem.