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Medical device makers to fight bias against homemade products

Jeong Sae-im  Published 2019.08.20  12:50  Updated 2019.08.20 17:47

공유
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“We want to raise our local market share to 70 percent, global market share to 7 percent, and lift Korea’s ranking in medical devices to seventh in the world.”

Such key visions for domestic medical devices in the next decade came from Korea Medical Device Industrial Cooperative Association (KMDICA), which is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its foundation next week.

Lee Jae-hwa, chairman of Korea Medical Device Industrial Cooperative Association, speaks during a news conference in Seoul, Monday.

The association will hold the 40th-anniversary celebration ceremony at the Millennium Seoul Hilton on Aug. 28. It will declare its “Vision 2030” for the advancement of the medical equipment industry, which was devised up based on President Moon Jae-in’s road map for advancing the biohealth sector as a new growth engine announced in May.

Lee Jae-hwa, chairman of KMDICA, held a news conference on Monday to share his thoughts about the 40 years of the organization’s history and its role for the advancement of the Korean medical devices industry.

“Representing local medical device manufacturers, the cooperative association has been doing a lot of things for the past 40 years, and we went through some difficulties, too,” Lee said. “Especially after the Korea Medical Devices Industry Association was established, many works of the cooperative association have been moved to the industry association, and we suffered a financial ordeal.”

However, KMDICA was able to keep growing by setting up new works and finding a breakthrough, he emphasized.

“We started a new education program to nurture talents as required by the industry, and we were able to regain momentum,” he said. “Working with government agencies, KMDICA participated in international exhibitions so that local firms could promote and export their products.”

However, the Korean medical devices industry still faces many challenges, he warned.

Lee noted that prejudices that local medical devices have inferior technologies are still prevalent. Domestic medical devices used in medical institutions account for less than 20 percent. As a majority of medical device producers are small- and medium-sized enterprises, the working limit of 52 hours per week, the minimum wage hike, and the ongoing trade war between Korea and Japan have become a heavier burden for them.

“To achieve our Vision 2030, we must expand exports backed up by domestic demand. Domestic products should be able to get recognized both by local medical institutions and the global market,” Lee noted. “To do so, KMDICA will gather member firms’ efforts to enhance domestic R&D based on excellent technologies, reinforce the industry workforce, ease regulations, and support exports.”

The government’s recent decision to allow only SMEs to participate in bidding for patient monitoring facilities, often used in hospitals, will be a positive signal to expand the domestic demand, KMDICA said.

After Japan excluded Korea from trade whitelist, KMDICA is supporting local medical devices firms to solve related problems.

“Domestic manufacturers are experiencing a few delays in contracts when exporting their products to Japan. We will discuss these issues with the government and keep monitoring for concerned areas,” Lee said. “Korean medical devices makers are making an extra effort, localizing core components such as X-ray tubes, to overcome the crisis.”

However, it will be challenging for Korean firms to localize all Japanese medical devices to local ones, he said.

“If they have to change the material for components, they should get approval for the change. It takes much time and cost. So, for this, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety should allow fast-track approval for products seeking localization,” Lee added.

KMDICA plans to participate in a job fair in September, promoting the local medical devices industry so that member companies can offer new employment opportunities and hire excellent talents.

The Medical Devices and Cosmetics Industry Job Fair is expected to run on Sept. 17 where over 40 medical devices firms and 20 cosmetics makers will attend.The event aims to introduce competent SMEs with a good working environment so that job seekers can fight the prejudice that working at SMEs is demanding and unrewarding and land good jobs.

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