Interview with Pyong-Il Son, Regional Director General, KOTRA

KOTRA bolsters ties between businesses in Africa and Korea

Pyong-Il Son, Regional Director General, KOTRA, says that businesses in Africa and Korea are looking to co-operate for new opportunities to overcome the COVID-19 crisis together.

Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) is a state-funded national trade and investment promotion agency whose purpose is to support South Korean small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the worldwide trade market. Its regional headquarters in Africa, located in Johannesburg, South Africa, oversees over 49 countries in the Sub-Saharan region. It offers a platform for South Korean companies to co-operate with high growth potential African businesses in various sectors such as trade, investment, and infrastructure development.

In an interview with Africa Health, Pyong-Il Son, Regional Director General, KOTRA, said: “This year, KOTRA has established the South Korean pavilion at the virtual Africa Health 2021 with 60 South Korean companies that will showcase their innovative medical technology. This is the largest participation Korea has made since its first attendance in 2011, which portrays that the African medical market has been of great interest for Korean companies over the years. We hope that businesses in Africa and Korea can co-operate with one another for new opportunities and overcome the COVID-19 crisis together.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the global business environment and industry paradigm have been rapidly changing. As a result, Korean companies face various new challenges such as digital transformation and re-organisation of the global value chain due to COVID-19.

Son said that KOTRA is making significant efforts to accept and adapt to the changes as an opportunity rather than a threat by developing new business models suitable to a post COVID environment. In addition, it is focusing on changing existing business processes as well as customers’ support programmes through digital transformation.

He said: “Therefore, Africa Health 2021 will be a good opportunity for Korean companies to familiarise themselves with the new digital environment. We are excited to be a part of Africa Health, where different technologies are being implemented, such as business matchmaking through AI. Furthermore, with the digital platform, I believe that medical companies in both Korea and Africa will be able to explore more co-operation opportunities than ever before.” 

Focus on digital transformation

According to Son, digital healthcare has come to the spotlight during COVID-19. With the increased number of people staying at home, many people started looking for virtual digital health services that could provide diagnostic and medical treatments. By using various wearable devices and AI convergence medical devices, individuals were able to monitor their health status remotely, and virtual medical services are also expected to increase.

“The Korean government is also actively establishing different strategic options such as the establishment of big data in biology, and expansion of R&D and healthcare services for the bio-health industry to respond to the rapid changes it is facing,” Son added.

The most significant impact of the development of AI and Blockchain is that the core foundation of the future of the medical industry will be focused on data-driven approaches that will drive innovative changes across existing hospital systems, medicines, and digital health. This will help in advancing personalised prevention and treatment, he stressed.

Son concluded: “On Tuesday, October 26, Korea Day will be held as part of the Country Focus Day at Africa Health 2021. A presentation from Korean Medical Association will be broadcast to explore the competitiveness of the Korean medical device industry and highlight ways to co-operate with businesses in Africa. We look forward to your attendance.”