A South Korean national (W) was released from policy custody last January, just 212 days after she had been arrested for allegedly attempting to smuggle illicit substances. Whilst the prosecution has decided to drop all charges on her, she will be deported later this week back to South Korea for her involvement in the alleged offences nonetheless.
Ms W arrived in Australia back in September 2017 on a working holiday visa. While settling in Australia, she was introduced to the boyfriend of an acquaintance she met in Australia. He asked if Ms W could provide him 3 addresses to which he could send a “sample from a pharmaceutical company” and whether she could receive the sample on his behalf for $100 compensation. Without much hesitation, she provided her own home address.
Much to her detriment, the parcel contained a stash of pseudoephedrine, a common substance used for manufacturing illegal narcotics such as methamphetamine. It was highly likely that she was going to be found guilty on the charges regardless of her intention despite her claim that she was not aware of what she was receiving. As such, it was an extremely fortunate occasion that she avoided a conviction. Her defence lawyer, John Heanu Kang of H&H Lawyers who had played a pivotal role for W throughout the process provided some insights as to why the prosecution had decided to drop her drug related charges.
“Firstly, pseudoephedrine, the substance that Ms W received is not an illegal substance in Korea and can easily be purchased OTC from pharmacies in Korea. It would not have been illegal either for the sender or the receiver had the entire dealing occurred in Korea. We focused on this point. We tried to persuade how easy it was for them to obtain this substance in Korea by requesting expert opinions from Korea’s Food & Drug Administration and industry professional. I think the prosecution accepted this view.”
“Secondly, if the trial continued, the prosecution would have had to arrange the appearance of both Indonesian and South Korean officials and this would have led to a much higher legal cost”. Mr Kahn said “the fact that Ms W did not take further steps to enquire the nature and origin of the ‘sample’ even though her acquaintance revealed it would be coming from a pharmaceutical company precisely shows how many Koreans are still unable to fully appreciate the gravity of drug related offences. For that reason, these people are easily targeted”. He emphasised the “irreversible consequences that people could face when they did not try to find out what they were getting themselves into just because it was difficult for them to refuse their acquaintance’s request or because they thought it was an easy money to earn”.
On the other hand, Ms W’s brother who initially appealed for help and public attention through the National Petition of South Korea revealed that “the whole process was extremely difficult for everyone but I am very happy my sister has been finally released. I recall a movie that was based on a true story similar to my sister’s case, and it’s a shame that the movie had to be repeated again. I really hope that this does not happen to anyone ever again. I think the Government really needs to take further steps to educate those who depart to overseas on this issue more strictly and properly”. He emphasised.
South Korean embassy in its press conference on the 17th said “we continued to communicate with the relevant Australian authorities for just and fair treatment of our national and have been providing consular support to both W and her family in Korea”.