An uncomfortable export boom
The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
As Covid-19 turns the United States, the world’s richest country, into its biggest victim, medical and bio companies around the world are enjoying an unexpected boom. Korean medical device companies are no exception. Four Korean companies, including Osang Healthcare and Solgent, have made direct supply deals with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and opened the path for export. More companies have contracts with state and municipal governments, such as LabGenomics with Maryland and Seegene with Los Angeles.
As of April 8, more than 2 million Americans have been tested, with more than 430,000 positive diagnoses and 14,800 deaths. The United States is aggressively expanding testing capacity. With the surge of demand, stock prices of Korean companies producing testing kits have been stirred.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is helping the exports of test kits in an effort to publicize Korean disease control that prevented the spread with an extensive testing policy early on. After U.S. President Donald Trump requested Korean medical equipment from President Moon Jae-in during a call on March 24, working-level talks have been held, and the ministry is overseeing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency approval and FEMA contracts. Every day, the Foreign Ministry releases the progress of testing kit exports in the daily briefing. At times, the ministry is quicker than the market announcement.
But my question is whether Trump appreciates Korea’s assistance and export efforts. On March 30, Trump expressed thanks to China and Russia for sending medical supplies, but he’s never made even a nominal appreciation of Korea. Instead, he said that the United States had tested the most and its testing device was the best. While the FDA approved 31 American testing kits, emergency approval has not been made two weeks after the two leaders talked. The U.S. Department of State hasn’t answered my inquiry on Korea’s assistance in the response to Covid-19. Korea hasn’t made any assistance other than exporting testing kits.
A diplomatic source said that no humanitarian assistance can be made to the developed world such as the United States and Europe, and exporting other medical supplies such as masks and ventilators is restricted as they are not sufficient for domestic demands. Assistance from China comes from the private sector such as Alibaba founder Jack Ma or Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 10, Page 28