Country Report: Korea

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Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-05-01-2019, Volume 39, Issue 5

Following its economic rise in recent decades, driven by innovation across a wide variety of powerhouse industries, South Korea is setting its sights on the next generation of technological growth-including new strategies to globalize and industrialize the nation’s pharmaceutical and healthcare sector.

Thinking Big

Sometimes dubbed the “Miracle on the Han,” South Korea is indisputably an economic success story. Finding itself one of the world’s poorest countries in 1953 following the devastation of the Korean War, its meteoric development in the decades since has seen GDP per capita surge 31,000-fold, elevating the country to the world’s 11th largest economy.

With a population dwarfed by those of Asian rivals such as China and Japan, Korea’s success has come from innovation and the country now regularly tops the Bloomberg Innovation Index. Today Korea leads in industrial competitiveness for smartphones, semiconductors, and lithium batteries, and has created world-renowned conglomerates, known as Chaebols, such as Samsung, Hyundai, and LG. The products of Korean innovation stretch across a wide variety of industries; even the world’s first ice-breaking carrier for transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) calls Korea its manufacturing home.

As other nations seek to emulate Korea’s standing within its historical powerhouse industries, the country’s government has already set its sights on the next generation of technologies ripe for Korean dominance. Under the presidency of Moon Jae In, Korea is gearing up to embrace the fourth industrial revolution, fusing the physical, digital, and biological worlds.

“When innovative growth is discussed, the strategy includes all sectors of the economy, including pharmaceuticals and the health sector,” asserts Yong Ik Kim, president of the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS). Such sentiments tend to be echoed by the legislators and policymakers, many of whom seem to understand the life science industry’s fundamental importance as a lynchpin to economic resurgence.


“We really need to think carefully about how to globalize and industrialize the healthcare sector. For example, which new technologies, and therapies to pursue,” insists Myoung Su Lee, chairman of the Health and Welfare Committee at the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea.


To view the full article on Korea's evolving life sciences and healthcare markets, produced by Focus Reports and featured in Pharm Exec's May 2019 issue, click 

 (cycle down to page 30).

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