SEOUL, South Korea — Police in South Korea have accused 17 American soldiers of smuggling and distributing synthetic marijuana, which they say was brought into the country through the U.S. military’s postal service.
Four South Korean nationals and a Filipino national were also taken into custody, Cha Min-suk, a detective in Pyeongtaek, a city south of the capital Seoul, told NBC News in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Cha said the arrests came after “unprecedented” search-and-seizure operations on at least two U.S. military bases, including Camp Humphreys, the hub of U.S. Forces Korea and the U.S. Army’s most active airfield in the Pacific, according to its website.
Cha said the suspects were accused of illegally importing around 12 ounces of synthetic cannabis from the U.S. using the American military postal service. Over the course of a year he said they were also alleged to have sold, distributed and used the drug, which is illegal in South Korea.
Synthetic marijuana is an umbrella term used to describe drugs that mimic the effects of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
People convicted of importing marijuana into South Korea can face prison sentences of five years to life, while those caught buying and selling it can face a minimum of one year behind bars, The New York Times reported. Those caught using it can be sentenced to up to five years in prison or fined up to $37,600, the newspaper said.