SEOUL, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- A quarter of drug offenders used online platforms, including social media and mobile messengers, to trade illegal narcotics over the past five years, police data showed Friday.
According to the National Police Agency data submitted to Rep. Kang Sun-woo of the opposition Democratic Party, a total of 49,850 people were apprehended on drug offenses from 2018 to August this year.
Of them, 10,772 people, or 21.6 percent, traded drugs via social media sites, mobile chat apps and other online platforms, and 2,443 people, or 5 percent, used the dark web and encrypted virtual assets. The remainder bought and sold drugs offline.
The statistics also showed a sharp increase in teen offenders, with their number increasing 57.7 percent year-on-year to 164 in 2019, 47 percent to 241 in 2020 and 28.2 percent to 309 in 2021.
Between January and August this year, 227 teenagers were apprehended on drug charges.
The data also found about three-quarters of drug criminals during the period were first-time offenders.
The percentage of first-time offenders increased from 72.3 percent in 2018 to 74.3 percent in 2019, 78.5 percent in 2020, 79 percent in 2021 and 80.5 percent between January and June this year.
Police attributed the increase in the number of teen and first-time criminals to the easy access to drugs offered by the online marketplaces.
"In addition to punitive measures, we should swiftly come up with fundamental changes to the policy on illegal drugs and national-level countermeasures including preventative education," Rep. Kang said.