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(LEAD) S. Korea to raise annual R&D budget for bio industry to 4 tln won by 2025

17:24 January 16, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS remarks in last 4 paras)

SEONGNAM, South Korea, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to raise its annual research and development budget for the biotechnology industry to 4 trillion won (US$3.4 billion) by 2025, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Thursday.

Hong made the remarks as he visited a biotechnology firm in Seongnam, south of Seoul, earlier in the day.

Last year, South Korea spent 2.5 trillion won for research and development for the biotechnology industry.

Hong also vowed to step up deregulations to help biotechnology startups become unicorns with a valuation of more than $1 billion.

"Regulations are the biggest hurdle for the biotechnology industry," Hong said.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki (2nd from L) visits a biotechnology firm in Seongnam, south of Seoul, on Jan. 16, 2020. (Yonhap)

Biotechnology startups have been able to develop products without regulatory hurdles. Under a so-called regulatory sandbox, biotechnology firms are exempted from strict regulation.

This year, the government will designate 10 industrial sectors, including the biotechnology industry, to benefit from the regulatory sandbox, Hong said.

South Korea's biotechnology industry output increased 3.3 percent in 2018 from the previous year on the back of robust growth of the outsourced sector.

The value of output in the local biotechnology industry was estimated at 10.48 trillion won in 2018, compared with 10.13 trillion won a year earlier, according to data by the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Hong told reporters that the interim Sino-American trade deal would bring "positive factors in general" to the Korean economy.

"The biggest positive factor is that uncertainties are resolved due to the first phase deal," Hong said.

The Korean government will nevertheless closely monitor how the U.S. and China negotiate toward a second phase deal, Hong said.

South Korea's main stock index climbed 0.8 percent on Thursday after the United States and China signed an initial trade deal.
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