Despite this interesting headline, North Korea has a much stricter policy than its Southern family, however you could be forgiven for believing so due to a group of recent headlines.
Although the news has not become popular in the U.S., the big news in South Korea is a marijuana scandal surround the singer T.O.P. who hails from a popular K-pop band named Big Bang. T.O.P. could face five years in jail after a hair follicle test by the Seoul Metropolitan Police came back positive for marijuana. The singer was forced to take the test after a young woman claimed him as a supplier for “liquid marijuana” following her arrest.
The conflict could see the end of Big Bang whose extremely large fan base makes them one of the largest boy-bands in South Korea currently. T.O.P. was found unconscious in his home from an apparent overdose of tranquilizers leading the public to believe the old myth of marijuana being a gateway drug.
A popular news outlet titled Korea Exposé notes that the hemp plant has in fact been grown on the Korean Peninsula for thousands of years where it has been mostly used to manufacture rope and traditional fabrics. The plant wasn’t outlawed in South Korea until the Narcotics Act in 1957 under pressure from Washington.
The law only mentioned “Indian Marijuana” technically leaving the locally grown product legal. Not until the 1960s did smoking the plant become popular with Korea’s youth.
Its rising popularity prompted a crackdown by then dictator Park Chung-hee, South Korea’s longest ruling military strongman. Chung-hee forced curfews and regulations upon hairstyles as well as clothing aimed at destroying the rising counterculture. The technicality in the law soon became irrelevant as conservative values became more and more emphasized.
Although marijuana users in North Korea would be sent straight to death if they could even find the plant, South Korea’s drug-policy remains extremely tense.
Maybe one day, the people of North Korea and South Korea will be able to pass a blunt across the DMZ, but for now the plant remains strictly illegal on both sides.