S. Korean medicine exports triple in 10 years

January 4, 2016

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korean medicine exports jumped threefold in the last 10 years as local pharmaceutical companies have become more competitive on the global stage, government data showed Tuesday.

According to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Asia’s fourth-largest economy shipped out 2.54 trillion won (US$2.13 billion) worth of medical drugs in 2014, up 9 percent, or 210 billion won, from the year before. The total is 3.1 times larger than 820 billion won in exports tallied in 2005.

In the past decade, medicine exports have risen an average 13.4 percent annually, with the pace expected to pick up in the coming years, the ministry said.

It attributed the growth to companies such as Hanmi Pharmaceutical Co., which developed new drugs that has allowed it to ink technology export deals with leading overseas drug manufacturers. The company has made a drug that can better treat patients suffering from lung cancer.

Despite the progress made, the ministry’s latest findings showed that the country still suffered an overall deficit in the medicine trade.

In 2014, the country imported 5.49 trillion won worth of drugs from abroad, up nearly twofold from 2.84 trillion won in 2005. This caused the trade deficit in the field to rise from 2.02 trillion won in 2005 to 2.95 trillion won in 2014.

Besides drugs, the country shipped out 2.71 trillion won worth of medical equipment in 2014, up fourfold from 720 billion won exported in 2005.

The ministry, which also controls cosmetics, said while the amount is much smaller than medicine, South Korea has been making steady strides in the makeup field.

In 2005, the country’s cosmetics exports stood at 290 billion won, but this rose to 1.9 trillion won in 2014, helped by the popularity of South Korean pop culture.

During this period, the country’s imports rose from 540 billion won to 1.1 trillion won.

The trade balance in cosmetics moved from 250 billion won in the red to a surplus of 790 billion won, a positive development for a country that is moving to transform cosmetics into an export growth industry.

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