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South Korean Police Arrest 49 in Crypto-powered Drug Trading Bust

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read
South Korean Police Arrest 49 in International Crypto-powered Drug Trading Bust

South Korean police have arrested 49 people in a raid on a suspected crypto-powered drugs trading gang, officers announced on April 23.

Per Newsis, the Busan Police Agency Drug Crime Investigation Unit said the gang had smuggled and sold almost $1.5 million worth of narcotics to crypto-paying buyers.

South Korean Police Arrest ‘Gang Leader’ in Philippines


Officers said they were currently trying to “repatriate” the gang’s suspected ringleader, who appears to be based in the Philippines.

Police said the gang smuggled drugs including methamphetamine (crystal meth) and synthetic marijuana into the country from the Philippines. Officers also believe the gang sold drugs to buyers in the Philippines.

A spokesperson told reporters that the gang had used drug smugglers to conceal bags of drugs inside women’s sanitary products.

The smugglers then tried to evade detection at airports by wearing these sanitary products in their underwear.

The spokesperson added that the gang contacted drug users via 11 different Telegram channels, with the customers paying in crypto.

Gang Allegedly Used Crypto, Telegram, and Dead-dropped Drug Deliveries


As has previously been the case, the gang arranged to “dead-drop” narcotics in residential areas of the buyers’ choosing in South Korea.

Officers said the group typically chose to hide drugs in “electric terminal boxes and fire hydrants” in residential areas.

Bags of methamphetamine (crystal meth) seized by Busan Police Agency officers.
Bags of methamphetamine (crystal meth) seized by Busan Police Agency officers. (Source: Busan Police Agency)

Police Arrest Suspected Dealers, Smugglers, and Drug Users


Dealers would then allegedly send the buyers photographs and GPS location data to help them find the hidden drugs.

Police said the group began its operations in August last year, and added that some of the arrestees detained in both South Korea and the Philippines were charged with drug use.

Officers in Busan also arrested four suspected smugglers and 12 suspected dealers. Their counterparts in the Philippines arrested five suspected smugglers and 27 suspected dealers.

The spokesperson said that officers also confiscated 4.8kg of drugs, including 1.2kg of methamphetamine, as well as almost $41,000 worth of fiat.

Cash and narcotics-related items seized by Busan Police Agency officers.
Cash and narcotics-related items seized by Busan Police Agency officers. (Source: Busan Police Agency)

CCTV Footage Helped Police


Officers said they had tracked the gang for several weeks by “analyzing Telegram messages” and footage from over 1,500 CCTV units.

The Busan force added that it had worked with law enforcement agencies in the Philippines on the case, as well as Interpol and the South Korean National Intelligence Service.

Seo Sang-tae, the head of the Busan Police Drug Crime Investigation Unit, said his unit would continue to “investigate internet drug transactions.”

The Busan Police Agency added that it was “conducting an intensive crackdown on drug crimes.”

Last year, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol declared an “all-out war” on crypto-powered drug trafficking.

Yoon said there was a “need” to “mobilize all government capabilities in the fight against drugs.”

A large number of narcotics-trading teens have been jailed for using crypto to buy and sell drugs in the past two years.

In February, officers in Seoul said they had made 452 arrests on crypto- and drug-related charges in the period June 2022 to December 2023.

Also this year, a report claimed that the streets of some of the nation’s biggest cities are now “polluted” with dead-dropped drugs bought in crypto deals.