With 2000 sales over US$1 billion and demand for medical devices predicted to grow by 10% in 2001, South Korea is Asia’s second largest medical device market, after Japan. Imports from the United States increased nearly 60% in 2000 to US$308 million and make up 31% of Korea’s total medical device market. Some of the best export prospects for US manufacturers include high-tech medical products, such as respiration equipment, orthopedic joints, magnetic resonance imaging systems, catheters, artificial heart valves, general surgical instruments, computer tomography scanners, etc. These types of advanced and innovative devices continue to be in particularly heavy demand.
With regard to pharmaceuticals, the Korean market shrunk by 40% during the 1997-1998 financial crisis. Today, the market has almost completely recovered to its pre-crisis size, with total demand for Western pharmaceutical products reaching US$4.8 billion in 2000. Growth of 5% is expected for this year. Since 1999, a series of reform initiatives have transformed the Korean pharmaceutical market, leading to better transparency and market access for imports. As a result, multinational firms now control about 36% of the Korean pharmaceutical market, up 27% from the previous year. The U.S. share of Korea’s pharmaceutical market is almost 10%. For 2001, pharmaceutical sales by U.S. owned firms in Korea are expected to reach US$486 million.