Britain started to smuggle opium to China from the early 18th century to make up for the trade deficit after the Industrial Revolution. At first, the British government let the East India Company lead but later it involved directly with the trade and waged a war against China (the Qing Dynasty) that cracked down drugs extensively. Losing the Opium War (1840-1842), China had to sign the Treaty of Nanking, its first unfair treaty in modern times, to hand over Hong Kong to Britain and open five ports. Later, China signed similar treaties with other countries such as the U.S. and France and became encroached by the Western Powers.
The Opium War is a history of disgrace that the Chinese people want to erase. With the legalization of opium, many Chinese became opium addicts. In 1948, just before communization, the drug addicts accounted for as much as 80 million, 15 percent of the Chinese population. The large-scale crack down of drugs after the Communist Party had taken office helped eradicate drug trade almost completely, but it has increased along with the Chinese economic reform. As of April this year, China recorded 2.58 million of drug addicts officially and 10 million, unofficially. Naturally, the Chinese government is waging a War on Drugs.
In China, anyone who manufactures, smuggles, delivers, or trades more than 1 kilogram of opium and 50 gram of methamphetamine and heroin will be sentenced to at least 15 years of imprisonment or death. Last year alone, 168,000 drug-related criminals were arrested. Foreigners cannot be spared. Over the past five years, the capital punishment was executed against five Japanese, five Filipino, one British, and one Pakistani people. Currently, 80 Korean nationals are in prison in China and some of them have been sentenced to death already in the first trial. They were arrested while delivering the drugs made in North Korea to South Korea.
It is lamentable to see our people put to death in a foreign country. When the British prime minister and the Philippines president asked favor for their people, China did not stir an eyelid. Nevertheless, the Korean government should make every effort to protect its people. It is also needed to call attention to the fact that capital punishment is too harsh for drug-related criminals together with the international community.