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North Korea's Answer To Missed Construction Deadlines? Crystal Meth

According to Radio Free Asia, project managers in Pyongyang are giving overworked builders ice to help meet deadlines.

North Korea's Answer To Missed Construction Deadlines? Crystal Meth

[Photo: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images]

In the United States, doing crystal meth on the job will get you fired. In North Korea? It's just part of the job, especially if you're in the construction trade, where project managers in Pyongyang are reportedly encouraging employees to catch a bad case of meth mouth, as long as it results in high-rises going up more quickly. Radio Free Asia reports (via Archinect) that project managers at a large building site in the North Korean capital are "openly supplying their exhausted workforce with power methamphetamines called 'ice.'"

Radio Free Asia's report is anonymously sourced, so should be taken with a grain of salt. But as Breaking Bad fans will know, "ice" is a highly purified form of crystal meth. Why would you give construction workers meth? Side effects include hyperactivity and increased movement, so theoretically, if you could keep it to that alone, workers on meth might be able to finish their work faster. Unfortunately, other side effects include diarrhea, blurred vision, and dizziness—not exactly symptoms you want to encourage when your workers are going to be walking the girders of 70-story-tall apartment complexes.

[Photo: shuige/Getty Images]

Apparently, though, this was a trade-off that Pyongyang project managers were willing to make. At stake is the on-time construction of Ryomyung Street, sometimes called Pyonghattan, a massive initiative by the North Korean government to open up to 60 new buildings as a symbolic rebuke to international sanctions relating to the regime's ongoing nuclear weapon tests. Although "hundreds of thousands of workers" have allegedly been brought in to complete the initiative, it looks as if officials will be hard-pressed to finish the work before the cold season starts later this year.

According to Radio Free Asia, the North Korean government is now aware of the use of methamphetamines at its construction sites. "Investigators are warning construction workers that they will be severely punished for further incidents of this kind," RFA’s anonymous source told them.