Report: North Korea is growing cannabis to fuel military vehicles

Emily Gray Brosious

May 3, 2017: 2:11 PM CT

Report: North Korea is growing cannabis to fuel military vehiclesA woman works in a “template” farmer village on August 23, 2015 in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Photo credit: Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images)


North Korea is reportedly producing hemp biofuel for military drones.


North Korean authorities are instructing farmers to grow cannabis, and sources say the state plans to use that cannabis oil to fuel unmanned aerial vehicles, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports via UPI.

The state has instructed people to cultivate hemp, rather than traditional soybeans, in order to meet cooking oil production quotas. But according to RFA, a U.S.-government-funded news outlet, North Korea’s military actually plans to use the hemp oil as drone fuel.

North Korea relies almost entirely on China for its oil imports, and Pyongyang may be exploring hemp oil as a military fuel to shore up its own energy independence. In late April, gas prices in Pyongyang soared by as much as 83 percent in just three days, following reports that China was considering an oil embargo on North Korea, Global Times reported.

North Korean officials first ordered farmers to replace their soybean fields with cannabis in March, a source in Yanggang Province told RFA. Authorities said hemp oil “has a lot of fat,” which makes it better for cooking than soybean oil.

According to RFA, cannabis is classified as an oilseed crop in North Korea, and farmers have legally cultivated the plant since the early 1980s.  

“[Former leader] Kim Il Sung extensively encouraged the cultivation of yeoksam (cannabis) to solve a cooking oil shortage in the early 1980s,” a source told RFA.

Hemp is a variety of cannabis that grows with very little THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. It’s one of the oldest known human crops and is used worldwide for many purposes. Hemp fibers can be turned into textiles, ropes, even plastics, while hemp seeds can be used for cooking oil, hemp biodiesel and other purposes.

According to, hemp biodiesel is one of the few alternative fuels that can run in any conventional, unmodified diesel engine.


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