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Bio, game, tech industries mixed over Yoon’s campaign pledges

Yoon Suk-yeol (Center), then People Power Party's presidential candidate, speaks on digital industry transformation at the party's office in Yeoui-do, Seoul on Jan. 12. (People Power Party)
Yoon Suk-yeol (Center), then People Power Party's presidential candidate, speaks on digital industry transformation at the party's office in Yeoui-do, Seoul on Jan. 12. (People Power Party)
With Yoon Suk-yeol set to be South Korea’s next president, the country’s biopharmaceutical and gaming industries are paying vigilant attention as the president-elect pledged to increase support for the bio and health sectors while vowing to tighten regulations on game makers’ random box items.

The pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries on Thursday welcomed Yoon’s campaign promise to set up a prime ministerial control tower called the Pharmaceutical Bio Innovation Committee, which can oversee pan-governmental policies related to the industry.

“President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol expressed his willingness to actively foster and support the pharmaceutical bio industry, emphasizing that it is a new path to establishing health security and creating national wealth,” said the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association.

Yoon also vowed to provide more support for research and development, as well as tax benefits for drug developers. In particular, the president-elect said he will double R&D support funding from the current amount of 2.8 trillion won ($2.3 billion) to 5.6 trillion won through 2030.

As South Korea has the highest level of medical technology, clinical trial infrastructure, excellent drug production capacity and new drug development R&D capabilities, the KPBMA said, the industry expects to realize the goal of becoming a global biopharmaceutical powerhouse in the near future with the government’s support.

On the other hand, there were wary eyes, as some past presidents and administrations had shown their willingness to foster the industry, but did not lead to fruitful results.

“The pledges have been made, but they need to be taken into action in order for the bio sector to really grow. The next administration should draft an overall roadmap for its mid- to long-term visions,” a biopharmaceutical industry source said.

The game industry is on alert as Yoon pledged to impose tighter regulations on the controversial random box items that players can purchase in games with in-game currencies or real money.

In January, Yoon stressed that the game industry has been distrusted by users with opaque probability information while making huge profits from random box items. He mentioned the earlier boycott movement among the players of Nexon’s MapleStory when the game was found to manipulate the odds of random box items.

The president-elect promised to force game makers to completely reveal information on the probability of random box items. Yoon added that he will create a gamers’ committee that can supervise the game developers and play a role similiar to a viewers’ committee that monitors TV broadcasters.

He even said he will enact a presidential decree to standardize the level of penalties for game companies that forge information on random box items.

“Forcing game makers to fully disclose probabilities of random box items may put too much burden on the industry because such information is part of each developer’s trade secrets,” said a gaming industry worker.

Regarding the play-to-earn (P2E) games that are currently banned in the country over the concerns that they can promote speculation, Yoon took a conservative approach and said there should be a great degree of caution in discussing the legalization of P2E games.

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence developers welcomed Yoon‘s victory, as he envisioned setting up a digital government using AI.

“We can’t think of a digital government without AI,” Yoon said during his presidential election campaign on Jan 28. “AI will play a key role in every sector of industry and governance where the digital economy is increasingly intertwined. Such sectors include corporate management, bio, mobility, smart cities, governmental administration, national defense and education.“

Yoon pledged to develop a world-class, next-generation self-learning AI technology, citing the need to bridge the gap with advanced countries. According to Yoon, Korea’s AI technology is currently 1.8 years behind the US.

In order to foster a strong foothold in the AI industry, Yoon said he will establish a cloud computing infrastructure where universities, institutions and companies can jointly have access so that they can be involved in developing top-notch AI technology.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com) and Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)
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