The Eye-Opening Gift That Is Commonly Given On New Year's In North Korea

North Korea does things differently. Ever since the country became the Democratic People's Republic of Korea  after the Korean War's armistice in 1953, the area has grown more isolated with each tyrannical dictator. Now with Kim Jong-un's leadership, and his tight restrictions on media, much of what the rest of the world knows about this area comes from the global rumor mill. The 25 million citizens who live there don't generally talk about their lifestyle because they fear government oppression, which includes public executions, starvation, prison camps, and other threats to their existence.

North Korea's citizens are required to be devoted to their ruler and his family and, if they make any transgressions, there is a collective punishment rule. "If one member of a family is found guilty it's possible that their whole family gets punished," according to the BBC, and that can continue for up to three generations.

With so many restrictions in place, North Korea's people sometimes turn to drugs, reports the Daily Beast, and users include workers in factories, who use it as a pick-me up during shifts, along with businessmen and local celebrities. They even exchange methamphetamine on all sorts of holidays, including Chuseok, a harvest festival, and New Year's, birthdays and graduations.

Crystal meth-fueled celebrations in North Korea

The Lunar New Year celebration is an especially popular time to give crystal meth, reported The New York Times. Most users inject or snort the powerful drug and don't always understand it's an addictive substance with severe consequences. Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea, told the Times, "Meth, until recently, has been largely seen inside North Korea as a kind of very powerful energy drug — something like Red Bull, amplified."

The drug was produced by the government in the 1990s for export to China or Japan, but declined in the mid-2000s, according to a 2014 study by Sheena Chestnut Greitens at the University of Missouri. Despite that, popularity of the drug surged. While the government prosecutes dealers and makers, the temptation to make lots of money quickly convinces suppliers to continue selling it.

Crystal meth, known as "ice" in North Korea, was a best-selling gift for 2019's Lunar holiday, according to Radio Free Asia.  An anonymous source told the news agency that people "want to forget their harsh reality and enjoy themselves ... Social stigmas surrounding drug use [have disappeared], so people now feel that something big is missing if they don't have ice or opium prepared as a holiday gift."

Greeting the New Year by singing "Auld Lang Syne" and wearing glittery hats seems so much healthier.