A source reported on July 14th, "The drug Philopon is being produced in three cities and distributed from three cities." It is being manufactured in Hamhung in Hamnam province, and Sunchon and Pyongsong in Pyongnam province, and distributed from Hyesan in Yangkang province, Sinuiju in Pyongbuk province, Musan in Hambuk province, said the source.
Locations at the forefront of state sponsored narcotics production in North Korea are the Sangwon county of Pyongyang, Ranam and Chongjin cities in Hambuk province, and Hamhung in Hamnam province. An increasing amount of philipon production is being undertaken privately, however. The source said that manufacture of the manmade drug philipon is in fact easier than the harvesting of natural narcotics. Although it is not an easy matter to acquire the hydrochloric acid ephedrine required to fuel the production process it is easier to get hold of than opium, and the technology required to produce philipon is already to hand. A more important reason is that North Korea's scientific and medical elite being involved means the production process is monotonously simple, hence the trend for it to be made privately.
Private production of philipon is centered around Hamhung, Sunchon, and Pyongsong. Hamhung became the first place in which individuals took to producing the semi synthetic drug philipon because the city was the base for North Korea's heavy and chemical industries, one of which is synthetic manufacturing (theFebruary 8 Vinalon Complexis situated there). Sunchon has come to the fore as a center of heavy and chemical industries in North Korea since the establishment of medical and nitrogenous fertilizer factories there in the 1960s and Sunchon Vinalon Complexin the 90s. Pyongsong benefits from its close proximity and ties with the National Science Academy in Pyongyang’s Eunjung district. All three cities have in common the presence of North Korea's leading experts in synthetic production techniques, so providing them with the starting condition for easily achieving the production process of the semi synthetic drug philipon whose basic framework is hydrochloric acid ephedrine.
A decade ago Pyongyang was the center of philipon production. Now it holds the upper hand in consumption alone.
Because these three cities account for over 90% of the philipon produced in North Korea. The philipon produced in Hamhung, Pyongsong, and Sunchon fetches a high price because of the high level of purity the elite scientific and medical manufacturers in the region can infuse it with. If you have the money, it is extremely easy to get hold of.
A gram of North Korean philipon is sold to China for $10~$15 (65~100 yuan) where it can go for over $30. Those producing the drug are also selling the kits necessary to produce it, said the source. They are going for between $200 and $1,500. Purchase of the foreign-made glass heat treatment tools required to manufacture the high purity philipon can cost $3,000.
Because of the generally cheap cost of production, however, private producers of philipon can make an average of 50 grams a day, worth more than $500 in China and $100,000 in South Korea. It is smuggled over the border into China from where it can be distributed around that country or internationally.
Some have achieved great wealth in North Korea as a result of philipon. They tend to live in Sinuiju and Uiju in Pyongbuk province, Hyesan in Yangkang province, the Musan county of Hambuk province, and the Onsong county of Hoeryong city. Some people in these areas are heavily involved in distributing the drug, most significantly in Hyesan, Sinuiju, and Hoeryong, respectively. North Koreans refer to these cities as the three philipon distribution centers. Indeed Hyesan is commonly referred to as North Korea's Hong Kong, a nod to that city's significance in the opium wars between China and the British.
Since the March of Tribulation, North Koreans have been forced to find desperate short term measures to survive, including such means as philipon production. But now, this has become a get rich quick scheme, quotidianising the consumption of illegal and harmful drugs. The recent positive testing of five North Korean female soccer players is a case in point illustrating the pervasive acceptability of drug misuse in North Korean society.
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