SEOUL, President Moon Jae-in announced ambitious plans Wednesday to triple South Korea's bio-health exports to US$50 billion by 2030, as his administration is desperately searching for new economic growth engines.

On a visit to Osong, North Chungcheong Province, which is the nation's mecca for biotechnology research, Moon stressed, "For us, now is the optimum opportunity to lead the global bio-health market."

Last year, South Korea's exports of medicine and medical devices totaled $14.4 billion, 1.8 percent of the world's demand. The government hopes to expand South Korea's market share to 6 percent and add as many as 300,000 jobs in the industry by 2030.

South Korean biosimilar products, in particular, account for two-thirds of the global market, the president noted.

In 2018 alone, South Korea exported new medicine technologies worth $4.8 billion, he added.

"At this moment, our firms are conducting a number of clinical tests around the world," he said. "Before long, new blockbuster-class domestic medicine will be produced."

Moon emphasized that his administration will focus on fostering the bio-health sector, along with the non-memory system semiconductor and future-generation car industries.

The government plans to use more than 4 trillion won ($3.3 billion) for R and D projects by 2025 and invest over 2 trillion won in the bio-health field through scale-up funds over the coming five years, he said.

The country's push for expanding medical exports to the European Union received a boost from the EU's recent decision to put it on the "white list" of several nations recognized as having medicine-related manufacturing and supervision standards that are on par with those of EU members.

Osong is home to a high-tech medical complex of biotech-related labs, institutions and several government organizations, including the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. It's the first bio-tech cluster in South Korea created under the government's initiative.

Separately, the authorities of North Chungcheong Province, located at the center of South Korea, unveiled a plan to invest 8.2 trillion won in 120 bio-health projects by 2030.

Moon then traveled to Cheongju, the capital of the province, for lunch and a tour of a historic site downtown.

Moon's trip there marked the ninth destination in his "economy tour" across the nation that began in October 2018.

He was accompanied by the presidential chief of staff, Noh Young-min, who was born and raised in Cheongju.

The former three-term lawmaker and ambassador to China is keenly interested in the bio industry, a Cheong Wa Dae official said.

Moon previously traveled to North Jeolla Province, North Gyeongsang Province, South Gyeongsang Province, Ulsan, Daejeon, Busan, Daegu and Gangwon Province.

The program is aimed at helping inject much-needed vigor into regional economies outside Seoul and the nearby Gyeonggi Province.

Source: Yonhap news Agency