South Korean law enforcement, alongside the Coast Guard, recently made a significant discovery at the New Port in Busan, possibly intercepting a major international cocaine shipment by chance. Displaying their seizure on February 8, officials revealed they had confiscated 100 kg of cocaine, valued at around $246 million. Remarkably, they believe the shipment was not intended for Korea but for a third country, as the vessel was bound for China, potentially onward to Europe.
Authorities refrained from disclosing the vessel's identity or its owners, suspecting it to be a pawn in a larger scheme orchestrated by South or Central American drug cartels. Through meticulous investigation, DNA samples and fingerprints were isolated from the concealed packages, ruling out involvement from the Korean or Filipino crew onboard.
While 11 Koreans and 12 Filipinos from the vessel were detained for interrogation, thorough examinations, including drug tests and digital forensics of their devices, failed to establish any connection to the smuggling operation. Investigators labeled this incident as another instance of the "parasite method," increasingly employed by cartels, citing international law enforcement sources.
The cargo ship, weighing 70,000 tons, routinely traverses between South America and Asia under Korean ownership. Suspicion arose during a routine port inspection when loose screws caught the attention of an observant team member, leading to the discovery of meticulously concealed cocaine bricks and tracking devices.
The ongoing investigation includes scrutinizing individuals associated with the vessel's journey from Brazil and unraveling the intended destination for the illicit cargo. Notably, the seizure's magnitude could hypothetically provide a single dose of cocaine to each of Busan's 3.3 million residents. However, it's imperative to note previous instances, such as a 400 kg cocaine discovery in 2021, emphasizing the persistence of such criminal activities in the region.