|The first customer of the day, Rittipomng Bachkul, celebrates after buying legal marijuana at Highland Cafe in Bangkok, Thailand, June 9. Measures to legalize the possession, cultivation, distribution, consumption and sales of cannabis became effective in Thailand, paving the way for the medical and personal use of all parts of the cannabis plant, including its flowers and seeds. AP-Yonhap|
Customs agency runs anti-drug campaign through Aug. 31
By Yi Whan-woo
Eating "samgyeopsal" with a glass of soju in while traveling Thailand can bring the peculiar joy of having popular Korean barbeque in an exotic environment.
Still, Korean tourists are advised to be cautious, as the aforementioned Korean meal may be served with marijuana, which is forbidden in Korea, according to the nation's customs agency.
In an anti-drug campaign launched on Thursday, the Korea Customs Service (KCS) said that summer vacationers are being increasingly exposed to marijuana and other drugs abroad, as many of them opt for overseas destinations after many COVID-19 travel restrictions have been eased.
It is legal to consume marijuana for medical and recreational purposes in some popular destinations.
These places include Thailand, which decriminalized cultivating, possessing and distributing marijuana, as well as consuming it in food and drinks in June, as a part of efforts to boost tourism, which was a major source of revenue and was hobbled by the pandemic.
Since then, several cases of marijuana being sold in "samgyeopsal," grilled strips of pork belly, soju and cookies have been reported, according to the KCS.
"Traveling to countries where marijuana is legal certainly raises the danger of it being used by Korean citizens," KCS Commissioner Yoon Tae-sik said.
Yoon expressed hope that the campaign "hopefully can raise awareness of all sorts of drugs during the vacation season."
The campaign runs until Aug. 31 at four international airports in Incheon, Gimpo, Gimhae and Cheongju.
The campaign addresses four common cases of Korean citizens being involved in drug-related crimes intentionally or unintentionally.
They are: tourists buying and attempting to bring in goods containing marijuana, and accepting offers from strangers for fully-sponsored tours in return for carrying packages with them when returning home.
Shopping malls abroad as well as Telegram and other encrypted messaging apps have also been reported as potential channels for drug-related crimes.
The average daily number of overseas travelers is increasing, up from 11,405 in January to 54,456 in July, both this year.
Those caught for drug-related crimes are mainly in their 20s and 30s. They accounted for 40.6 percent of all drug criminals in 2018, 47.6 percent in 2019, 49.9 percent in 2020 and 56.8 percent in 2021.