North Korean army receives improved seeds to increase soybean oil yield

Cultivated land in North Korea along the border with China
Cultivated land in North Korea along the border with China. Image (June 2019): Daily NK

The North Korean authorities are prioritizing the production of soybean oil for cooking needs at military bases and have provided seeds from a new cultivar to farms managed by soldiers, North Korean sources recently reported.

“Farms on military bases in Chongjin and other cities in North Hamgyong Province began receiving a new kind of soybean seed from May 5 and have since planted them,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK.

“High-level military officials have said that the new seeds can produce twice as much soybean oil than normal cultivars if they’re planted at the right time.”

The new seeds are called “oil soybeans” and have only been distributed to military bases. Larger and shinier than regular seeds,  the source said the new strain has brown and yellow spots.

“The soybeans are very nutritious even if when eaten raw, but they produce twice as much oil as regular soybeans when compressed,” the source said, citing an explanation given by high-level military officials.

Soldiers are planting six of the new, larger seeds in each hole (compared to the usual three or four of the regular seeds). The North Korean army’s shortage of oil is set to be resolved through the increased yield these new seeds provide, despite the lower height of the crops, the source explained.

“The number of seeds that were distributed was initially insufficient to cover all of the soybean farms so the soldier-farmers placed only six seeds in each hole. Later, they began planting three or four per hole,” he said. “They still didn’t have enough of the new seeds, so they had to ask nearby civilian farmers to give them regular seeds to finish the planting.”

When soldiers asked for regular soybean seeds from farms in Changpyong-ri, Onsong County, and Chongjin, the farmers gave the soldiers as many seeds as they could. The soldiers were given anywhere from one kilogram to 10 kilograms from locals, according to a separate source in North Hamgyong Province.

“The farm on the military base in Changpyong was able to get enough seeds to complete the planting on time,” he said, adding that the local agricultural management committee “praised regional farmers for providing the seeds to the soldiers,” who in turn they would repay the loan during the harvest season.

Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to