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Subject Government to Build Big Data and Plant Map of the Korean Peninsula by 2025
Writer ViroMed
Date 2018/04/11

Government to Build Big Data and Plant Map of the Korean Peninsula by 2025


April 2018, SEOUL, Korea - The Korean government announced its plan to build a big data database of Korean plants by 2025. This will include not only over 3,000 species that naturally grow in South Korea, but also 1,000 species in the North, thus increasing the industrial value of the map.


At the meeting for “Innovation and Growth Strategy of Natural Products in the Korean Peninsula” held at ViroMed’s R&D lab on Seoul National University campus, 1st Vice Minister Lee Jin-gyu of the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) stressed, “With the recent surge of people’s interest in food safety and health, the value of plant-derived products is increasing. Phytotherapeutics research, in particular, is an area that the two Koreas can work on together.”

There are about 4,000 different species of natural plants in the Korean Peninsula, among which about 1,000 grow in North Korea and have not been developed as novel materials. MSIT plans to make a map of plants on the Korean Peninsula, and build a database in which information such as components, structure, habitat, and life cycle of plants will be registered. The information integrated in the database will be available for companies to utilize. Vice Minister Lee commented, “We plan to build a big data center in Goseong, Gangwon-do.”

The big data center is one of the three top priority tasks the government is pursuing to support the development of natural products. The government is considering the establishment of a regional center in North Korea as well for joint research between the two Koreas. Furthermore, it plans to standardize ingredients of products including botanical drugs, nutraceuticals and cosmetics to boost the industry.  


As of 2016, the global sales volume of botanical drugs amounted to KRW 73 trillion but remained less than KRW1 in Korea. On the other hand, neighboring Japan’s market size was around KRW 19 trillion, with botanical drugs sales of a single company, Tsumura & Co, reaching KRW 1.9 trillion. 

Starting with SK Chemicals’ osteoarthritis medicine Joins in 2001, a total of eight products have been launched on the market including Dong-A ST's gastritis medicine Stillen and the ViroMed-PMG Pharm joint product Layla.


However, among the eight products, only five have reached sales of KRW 10 billion, and they are exported in only small quantities to some third countries other than the domestic market. This is partly because of the difficulty to produce natural products at a large scale due to limited supply of plants. Quality control is another challenge as the quality of ingredients is susceptible to changes in the cultivating environment.


Sunyoung Kim, DPhil, CSO of ViroMed, commented, "Government support should be made in the direction of upgrading natural materials to a global standard. The technical bottle necks such as ingredient standardization need to be addressed so that Korean companies can gain an upper hand in market entry into the US, Europe and other advanced countries."


In response to such demand, the government plans to develop an exploration system that can analyze the composition and content of natural materials at high speed during the separation and examination process of the components. It will also establish an artificial intelligence platform that can predict the material’s mechanism of action in the human body based on big data such as scientific papers and patents. Key technologies such as animal models will also be developed for safety verification and evaluation phases.


“We must mobilize all available natural plant resources to ensure the success of Korea’s bio industry,” Vice Minister Lee said. “The government will make sure that our support for natural product development does not end as a mere declaration.”


Translation by English Editor

Original Korean text: http://news1.kr/articles/?3286848