- On Wednesday, South Korean police announced they had arrested 17 American soldiers for smuggling synthetic marijuana through the US military's postal service and distributing it to at least two US army camps based in Gyeonggi Province between February and May 2022.1
- Four Koreans and one Filipino national were also arrested for participating in the illegal drug scheme, believed to have been facilitated through communication on Snapchat.2
- During their investigation, authorities reportedly confiscated $12,850 in drug sales proceeds, 80 milliliters of synthetic marijuana, and 27 electronic cigarette devices.3
- United States Forces Korea acknowledged the investigation into 'alleged illegal drug behavior and misuse of the military mail system' but claimed that no soldiers were being detained or held under confinement.4
- Exporting, importing, or selling marijuana in South Korea carries a sentence of between five years and life in prison, while consuming it carries up to five years or a $37.6K fine.4
- Synthetic marijuana is a term for substances — some of which are also banned in the US — that reportedly mimic the effects of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient of marijuana.2
- Narrative A, as provided by Stars and stripes. Though the US military bases across South Korea have historically been deemed potential sources of drug trafficking, the fact that the US investigation division assisted the country's law enforcement in an unprecedented search-and-seizure operation suggests the tide is turning on this issue.
- Narrative B, as provided by Guardian. This is the latest embarrassment for US forces in South Korea after one of its soldiers, who spent two months in prison on assault charges, crossed the border into North Korea during a civilian tour of a border village. If the US intends to remain in the country, it must discipline its armed forces and accustom its troops to respect the nation's laws and culture.