Korean government ramps up plans to boost medical equipment exports

South Korea's government is revving up regional exports of medical equipment, boosting the competitive pressures for device companies in Asia.

The Korea Times reports that the government has already opened facilities in Vietnam and Indonesia designed to boost demand for medical equipment, in part by targeting local doctors and importers with marketing and product support. More initiatives and further details are expected in December, according to the story.

This will be something worth watching--the fact that South Korea's government is backing increased exports for its medical equipment industry. Korean medical equipment exports hit $2.6 billion in 2012, according to data from the Korea Health Industry Development Institute cited in the story, with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa serving as the largest markets. That number is a 17.5% jump over 2011, according to the article.

South Korea's efforts are also a warning to multinational medical device companies seeking to expand their efforts in Asia and other emerging markets. The country has come into its own with medical equipment product development, and its companies see ripe opportunities for expansion in emerging markets throughout the region and beyond. What's more, South Korea also serves as a beachhead to reach both the country's own patient population and those in other Asian countries.

Some companies have been savvy about establishing a beachhead. Varian Medical Systems ($VAR) in the U.S., for example, built its first Asian subsidiary in South Korea. The move gives it a new market for its cancer-treating radiotherapy devices and imaging equipment, and an outpost from which it has already reached clients in places such as Vietnam. GE Healthcare has also signed up to buy mammography imaging technology assets from Rayence, a subsidiary of South Korean X-ray company Vatech, giving it a product lineup for emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere that have a recognizable name.

A big key to growth in Asia is to do so with regionally based companies, and South Korea is tapping into that potential.

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