Korea’s bio-health industry recorded exports of $4.4 billion in the first quarter, up 22.5 percent from a year earlier, the Korea Health Industry Development Institutes (KHIDI) said on Monday.
By sector, medicines showed the highest growth rate of 45 percent year to year to a total of $1.7 billion, followed cosmetics, which rose 16.3 percent to total $1.8 billion, and medical equipment, which marked the increase rate of 4.4 percent to $900 million.
Despite various adverse factors abroad, such as global business slowdown, plunging international oil prices and damages on the worldwide supply network, Korea’s bio-health industry showed a firm growth trend compared with the nation’s traditional flagship industries and sectors called the new growth engine, the state-run institute said.
By country, Germany was the largest importer of Korean medicines with h $300 million, chased by the United States’ $210 million, and Turkey’ $200.
In the pharmaceutical sector, biosimilars were the nation’s biggest export item in the first three months, with the shipment value of $870 million, 52.0 percent of the total drug medicine.
Notably, Celltrion’s biosimilar Remsima SC recorded a significant increase in exports as it began to be prescribed in Germany in February. Remsima SC is the world’s first infliximab hypodermic autoimmune disease biosimilar.
Medical equipment manufacturers exported $170 million worth to the U.S., $100 million to China, and $80 million to Japan.
The most exported medical equipment was an ultrasound imaging device with $110 million, followed by implant and in vitro diagnostic device, with $80 million each.
Korea’s in vitro diagnostic equipment makers marked sharp shipment increases to the U.S and Europe, including Italy, Spain, and Germany, thanks to their swift development and distribution of COVID-19 test kits.
In the cosmetics sector, the biggest buyer of Korean-made beauty products was China, with $840 million, followed by Hong Kong’ $220 million, and Japan’s $130. Basic skincare products sold $810 million worth abroad, accounting for 45.7 percent of the total cosmetic exports.
Reflecting the sharply increased interest in personal hygiene because of the new coronavirus outbreak, the export of surfactant products and preparations, such as hand sanitizers, surged significantly, jumped to $60 million, an increase of 64 percent.
In particular, the growth rate of surfactant products and preparations exports to Singapore and Vietnam soared by 396.2 and 109.2 percent, respectively, as Korea drew global attention as the exemplary case of containing COVID-19.
“Hit by the new coronavirus pandemic, the exports of most industries were sluggish,” said Shin Yu-won, chief of KHIDI’s statistics team. “However, the domestic healthcare industry is likely to continue the current export growth rate for the time being.”
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