9/06/2007

Foreigners’ Drug Use in Korea

Foreigners’ Drug Use

Appeared in Korea Times on September 7, 2007.

Dear Professor Sean Hayes: I have been charged with the consumption and possession of drugs. I am being held at a detention center south of Seoul. I was arrested in Itaewon and tested positive for THC (marijuana). My home was searched and they found marijuana in my house. What can I do? I don’t want to serve time in jail. Nervously awaiting my fate (summation of a phone call).

Dear Nervous: A major Korean TV network did a comprehensive story on the criminal behavior of English teachers in Korea. In the story, one Canadian teacher contended that two out of every 10 English teachers use drugs and many teachers use fake diplomas. Obviously, the teacher overstated the problem. If these new stories spread, I suspect an increasing number of arrests and prosecutions.

Do not do drugs in Korea. Leave Korea if you have a fake diploma. Eventually you will be caught. I have given this advice in other articles, but regretfully some readers have not heeded my advice.

In all serious criminal cases in Korea, an attorney with substantial experience in handling criminal matters for foreigners is needed. Nervous, it is imperative that you hire an attorney. If you don’t have money to hire one, call your parents and friends and get the money - this is a serious crime in Korea.

In most criminal investigations involving drugs, a police officer will obtain information that a certain person is using or selling drugs from other suspects or from undercover agents/informants. After the police arrest you they test you for drugs, search your home and if they believe that you are involved in “hard” drugs or have distributed drugs, they will hold you and request a detention order pending trial.

During the investigation the prosecutor will interrogate through a translator. Usually the questions and answers are translated into Korean. The suspect is then requested to review and sign the interrogation record that is in Korean. All too often the interrogation record is not an exact reproduction of what was said. The prosecutors and police, often, try to encourage certain answers in order to charge for more serious crimes or to prove the crime.  It is strongly advised to obtain an attorney before any statements are made to the prosecutor or police. This will, normally, lead to a much better outcome for the defendant.

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SeanHayes@ipglegal.com