Pioneering industrial hemp in South Korea

신태섭 기자l승인2020.01.21l수정2020.01.21 10:13






▲ Greenery / CEO Jaeyeol Lee

Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. Often regarded as a dope, it has been banned in many countries for health and safety reasons. Today however, its usefulness in other than its addictive side is creating a boom in the fiber, food and medical sectors. 

Hemp contains around 460 kinds of natural substances of which THC and CBD have strong presence. The former is what causes the psychoactive effect and the latter is known to prevent or cure various diseases. The World Health Organization says that CBD is safe for overdose and effective for 17 diseases including Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and cancer. In South Korea, processing and selling industrial hemp is legally allowed but the economy is in its infancy.  

Between March 12 and October 1, 253 units of medical hemp were supplied to male patients and 190 to female in South Korea. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is allowing import of Epidiolex and Sativex for medical purposes at the moment. These two substances are effective for preventing the progress of mental illnesses. The problem is that they are way too expensive for ordinary patients. 

A bottle of Epidiolex is around 1.5 million won ($1,383) and a pack of Sativex around 3.7 million won. So some urgent family members of patients sometimes get caught at the airport trying to smuggle. 

The good news, however, have arrived. Jaeyeol Lee, CEO of Greenery, signed an exclusive contract with four hemp farms in Colorado, USA. The industrial hemp he is importing contains no THC but only CBD extracted from the stems. The South Korean law allows only the hemp with 0% THC to be imported. 

Colorado has the perfect climate to grow hemp unlike many Asian countries that have high humidity. The four hemp farms Lee signed are producing monthly 10 tons of powdered CBD. It is a huge amount that 1kg CBD can make a cosmetic product. And this mass produce is the reason that Lee can provide industrial hemp at affordable prices in South Korea. 

Lee is targeting to supply as many sectors that need hemp as possible from medical and health supplement to cosmetics and pet food. For this, he has signed a MOU with Pet Territory and is working on a contract with a couple of large medical and cosmetics firms in South Korea. Pet Territory is famous for the pop idol CEO Minhyuk No, a member of Click-B.

The industrial hemp must contain less than 0.3% (5PPM) of THC and the Greenery’s have less than 0.1%. And this figure made sure by a thorough test and check by local industry officials and lawyers who confirmed that they are stem extracts. 

Lee is planning to introduce cosmetics that contain CBD from this year at the initial stage and then expanding the scope to food and medicine. He wished that the Greenery’s hemp could help patients who are in much need of it in South Korea.


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