Biotech sector ripe for inter-Korean cooperation

Yonhap
5/1/2006

South Korea could capitalize on North Korea’s emerging prowess in the biotechnology sector to foster inter-Korean cooperation in this modern scientific field, a report by a state-run institute in Seoul said Monday.

The communist country, often viewed as stunted politically and economically, possesses considerable competitiveness in the field of biotechnology, the report by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) showed. This, it said, is partly due to the need to alleviate the country’s chronic food shortages.

The institute cited 38,737 papers published in North Korea from 1985 to 2005, to show how scientists there have published a wealth of biotech papers related to medicine and clinical testing of plants and animals.

“North Korea has built up certain fields that can be developed by the two Koreas in the future,” said a KISTI researcher, declining to be named.

North Korean scientists have published many papers on biological agents designed to facilitate growth of tissues and micro-organisms, he said.

The country also reported the world’s second successful cloning of a rabbit and has demonstrated a level of expertise in fields like protein structure analysis, enzyme research and genetics, he added.

Biotech is one of the key future growth industries being pushed by Seoul, so cooperating with the North is being viewed as a potentially win-win deal.

In addition, the report said, South and North Korea can conduct joint works on areas like non-metal research and technology to help in the mining of natural resources.

The report by the institute comes after scientists from both countries promised to expand cooperation in the scientific field.

South Korea’s science minister Kim Woo-sik pledged earlier in the day, to continue state support for joint South-North Korea science cooperation. Seoul plans to provide 650 million won (US$710,200) this year after having spent 4.8 billion won from 1999-2005.

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