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With a population of 50m, South Korea boasts a major market for healthcare products, including medical devices. The country’s total healthcare expenditure has grown steadily from about 4.4% in 1990 to 7.1% of GDP in 2010, with an annual growth rate of 9%. South Korea is one of the world’s most rapidly aging populations. The percentage of South Korea’s population over 65 was 12.9% in 2015 and is forecasted to grow to around 20% by 2025.

Impact of the EU-Korea FTA

Implemented in July 2011, the EU-Korea FTA will lead to the removal of 97% of all tariffs for UK exporters. The FTA contains provisions on services, public procurement, intellectual property (IP) and sustainable development as well as the liberalization of goods tariffs. The FTA has ushered in enhanced protection for IP rights and improved copyright regulations.

Potential Opportunities

  • The South Korean government announced in 2015 that it will invest GBP 207m to foster biotechnology to produce five globally viable products by 2017

  • South Korea is currently the world’s 13th largest pharmaceutical market, and by 2020 the South Korean government aims to occupy 4.5% of the global pharmaceutical market

  • Biosimilars development is a key focus of major biopharmaceutical companies Samsung Bioepis and Celltrion

  • South Korea contributed a share of 5% of all clinical trials registered globally in 2013, and the government aims to expand its current focus on early-stage trials to later-stage trials

  • The South Korean medical device market is the 13th largest in the world and most high-end medical devices originate from the US, Japan, and the EU

Case Study: Leading Scottish Enterprise Agency

The Brief

The BCCK is currently working with the life science arm of a major Scottish enterprise agency to help Scottish companies identify potential partners and opportunities in the Korean healthcare and pharmaceutical markets.

The Approach

The BCCK delivered a long list of 50 potential companies and seven industry organizations. As of Phase One of the initiative, the BCCK has contacted 24 companies and arranged six meetings for the agency in Korea. At the end of the project, the BCCK provided the company with a comprehensive visit report outlining key opportunities and recommendations for each potential partner by order of priority.

The Outcome

Although the project is only in Phase One, the BCCK was able to identify several near, mid and long-term opportunities for Scottish companies and provide ideas on how to approach Phase 2 of the project, including a joint seminar or workshop with interested pharmaceutical companies in Korea.

Sector Specialist

Sean Blakeley


Sean is the Chief Executive Officer of the BCCK. For the past seven years, he has helped to promote British business in the country and supported multiple western firms to partner with and sell into major Korean conglomerates. A 12-year resident of Korea, Sean was the director of business development with a Korean publishing company and was managing director of a British management consulting company prior to joining the Chamber in 2015. His past clients in the healthcare space include SDI and Cambridge Weight Plan.



“Our desk research had identified South Korea as a significant export opportunity. We commissioned BCCK to help us find a suitable organisation to represent our brand exclusively within the country. From start to finish of the project BCCK provided essential support and guidance in identifying potential partners and then arranging meetings during a subsequent market visit. Their understanding of our brand and exactly what we were looking for in a partner was excellent. I would have no hesitation in recommending BCCK to other SME’s with similar projects.”

– Andy Jones, Head of Export, Cambridge Weight Plan

Some Companies Supported & In the Market

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