The recent death of “Parasite” actor Lee Sun-kyun highlights South Korea’s crackdown on drugs, one which draws a hard line against anything other than total abstinence, John Yoon reports for the New York Times. The policies have come under criticism from treatment experts who say that the authorities focus too much on punishment rather than rehabilitation. Lee’s lawyer denied the drug charges and accused the police of violating rules about the public release of information and said Lee had tested negative in multiple drug tests.
South Korea stands apart from countries like the United States, Canada and some in Europe, which approach drug use as a public health matter rather than simply a criminal one. And while some experts have said the country’s policies have helped keep drug use low, Drug-related arrests, including for its consumption and sale, rose to more than 17,000 this year from about 10,400 in 2019, according to official data. Among them, teens were the age group with the largest growth, jumping sixfold to 1,000 arrests from 160. The country’s latest crackdown, and the rhetoric of their president and officials in his administration, have echoed the “war on drugs” of the 1970s and ’80s in the United States.