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Meth has had a fair share of attention in western culture recently, with the enormous success of Breaking Bad thrusting the drug into the limelight.

But while it’s regarded as illegal and highly dangerous across much of the world, in North Korea meth is barely given a second thought. The Los Angeles Times put out a report this week detailing the use and trade of the drug, interviewing North Korean residents and dealers. Forget a cup of tea or a cold beer, the best North Korean hosts offer their guests meth.

“If you go to somebody’s house it is a polite way to greet somebody by offering them a sniff,” Lee Saera, who lives in the North Korean city of Hoeryong, told the Times.

Though its legal system is notoriously ruthless and oppressive, North Korea is surprisingly relaxed about drug use. Apparently there’s little stigma attached to using meth – it’s taken as a cold treatment, to curb hunger when food shortages arise, as an energy boost, or as a late-night study aid for students. Maybe Red Bull is hard to come by there?

And what’s more, the country has been running trade of the drug for years. During the 90s, North Korea’s government ran production of opium, meth and other drugs to raise currency for now deceased dictator Kim Jong Il. Apparently the government has now left the business, and production has gone underground, with kitchen labs being set up by poor workers resorting to cooking meth to make cash. Walter White’s got nothing on these guys.

Check out the full report at the LA Times website.

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