The Korea Herald


Drug users turning to illicitly imported tests to avoid getting caught: ministry

By Park Jun-hee

Published : Nov. 24, 2023 - 16:13

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Illicit sales of drug test kits from overseas are on the rise via social media, according to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety on Friday. They are being marketed to potential drug users looking to evade testing by police, the ministry said.

The test kits, which are equivalent to the rapid tests used by police here, produce results within a few minutes, allowing drug users to take measures to prevent getting a positive result in later police testing.

To alter results of the typically more reliable follow-up hair drug tests administered by authorities later, users could bleach their hair, get other cosmetic treatments done to the hair or postpone their appointments with police.

The urine drug test kits police use take around five minutes to detect drugs and have an accuracy level of approximately 70 to 80 percent, according to reports citing police. Police have expressed concern that new detection evasion tactics are quickly spreading, making it more difficult for authorities to conduct investigations.

Currently, the instant drug test kits are being sold for between 10,000 and 20,000 won ($7.65-$15.30) via secret Telegram channels, offering an affordable option for drug users to lower the risks of potential prison time or fines. The test kits can reportedly help detect four types of illegal drugs: marijuana, methamphetamine, or more commonly “philopon” in South Korea, ketamine and ecstasy.

Similar drug testing kits are also readily available on major Korean e-commerce sites at roughly the same prices. However, the kits being transacted in via encrypted channels on Telegram are being imported and distributed online without the legal approval of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

Under the Medical Devices Act, an individual who purchases a testing kit classified as a medical device from overseas can face a penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won.

In the wake of the rising issue, the South Korean government is working to prepare measures to prevent exploitation of testing kits. The Drug Ministry said it is mulling whether to classify drug testing resources as medical devices to better regulate their use.