K-pop star BoA probed on suspicion of smuggling psychotropic drugs to South Korea

BoA (Instagram)

K-pop star BoA underwent investigation for allegedly smuggling psychotropic drugs to South Korea from Japan.

BoA was summoned by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office on Dec. 16 for attempting to smuggle the drugs including zolpidem, used to treat insomnia, through an employee of SM Entertainment’s Japan office and bring them to Korea under the name of an employee of the agency in Korea.

SM Entertainment, her agency, explained a statement to said the smuggling was a mistake, saying, "Our employee received the drugs at a local hospital following due procedures but was not aware that it could be a problem in South Korea even though the drugs were prescribed normally abroad,” Yonhap News reported.

Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety classifies zolpidem as a narcotic drug along with propofol. Last September, the ministry issued standards on zolpidem, warning that its use “must be approached with caution as it can lead to drug abuse and dependence. In addition, zolpidem’s drug use period should not exceed 4 weeks, and zolpidem should not be used on patients under 18.”

Importation of psychotropic drugs into Korea needs proper clearance from authorities and must follow customs procedures. SM Entertainment said the employee did not have knowledge on customs procedures.

It admitted that its employee in Japan delivered the medicine by mail without going through formal import customs clearance procedures but said it was a mistake due to ignorance and there was no intention to bring it illegally.

The agency said BoA, who is also a creative director at SM Entertainment, underwent a medical exam recently and was advised by a doctor that she needed enough sleep due to a decrease in growth hormone. BoA took sleeping pills prescribed by the doctor. However, she experienced side effects such as dizziness and digestive problems such as vomiting.

The employee in Japan, as BoA’s representative, got confirmation at a local hospital and went through normal procedures to pick up the medicine. The employee confirmed with a local post office that it was possible to send the medicine from Japan to Korea by attaching documents such as the ingredient list without realizing that even medicine normally prescribed overseas may be problematic in Korea, the agency said.

BoA and the employee were investigated by the prosecutor’s office, which will decide whether to charge the singer based on different factors including the intention.