Building bad – North Korean builders “use crystal meth” to speed projects

North Korean workers in Pyongyang are allegedly being offered methamphetamine – "crystal meth" – by project managers under pressure to meet project deadlines.

An anonymous source told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that employees were "undergoing terrible sufferings in their work".

According to the source, workers were being given methamphetamines to speed up the frame construction on a 70-storey apartment tower and 60 other structures in the Korean capital.

RFA also reported that "hundreds of thousands" of people had been drafted to work on the projects, located on Pyongyang’s Ryomyung Street.

The radio station is a not-for-profit corporation set up to "advance the aims of US diplomacy". It is funded by the US government and broadcast from Washington, DC.

Phil Robertson, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, warned that the reports, which have been widely reported, were based on a single source.

He told The Telegraph newspaper: "It’s going to be hard to verify that this is happening, but if it is confirmed then we utterly condemned it.

"The real issue here is slave labour, and our immediate reaction to this was that if they want faster workers why not actually pay them, instead of resorting to giving them drugs?"  

Methamphetamine can cause increased levels of activity and alertness and its effects can last for up to 12 hours.

Although the drug may have motivational benefits, these are likely to be offset by quality of work and team building issues: the side-effects of prolonged use include psychosis, paranoia, anxiety, aggression and brain and organ damage.

Image: A rock of crystal meth (Psychonaught/Creative Commons)

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