Inside South-Korea's cannabis zone

In 2020, South Korea designated the country’s southeastern province of Gyeongbuk as a regulation-free zone for hemp, making it the center of the country’s cannabis industry. The city of Andong in the province, which has traditionally grown hemp fabrics for thousands of years, has since been the hub of the project. The special zone is the first and only place in the country where licensed farmers are legally permitted to plant and cultivate cannabis for export and medical purposes. 

Like other East Asian countries, South Korea has strict laws against the use of cannabis. Under the anti-drug laws, a person who smokes or trades the plant could face up to five years in prison, but South Korea amended the laws in 2018 and became the first country in East Asia to legalize the use of medical cannabis, and the Gyeongbuk Hemp Regulation-Free Zone was launched this year. 

Kim Soo-bin, 28, the CEO and a co-founder of South Korea’s start-up Imagination Garden, grows cannabis in the special zone in Andong. The young farmer is one of the first farmers that has grown the plant for medical use in the special zone with smart farming technology.

It was not a smooth journey for the farmer. Kim faced backlash and objections from public officials and even from his acquaintances. “Since the first thing Korean people associate with cannabis is drugs, some made fun of me and called me names,” Kim told VICE World News during a recent visit to the special zone. “But it’s because of their lack of knowledge. There is still a long way to go for the country to utilize cannabis for medical use."

Read the complete article and take a look inside the farm at vice.com.


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