S. Korea committed to homegrown COVID-19 vaccine development: minister

SEOUL– South Korea remains committed to developing homegrown COVID-19 vaccines, the country’s science minister said Monday, although local pharmaceutical companies face difficulties in conducting advanced stages of clinical trials.

Lim Hye-sook, the minister of science and ICT, said her ministry will continue to support companies in research and development to help them speed up the development of their COVID-19 vaccine candidates and treatments.

The country will also open the Korea Virus Research Institute on Tuesday, which will spearhead local research in viral diseases to combat pandemics.

South Korea has previously outlined plans to help companies developing COVID-19 vaccine candidates enter third stage trials in the second half of the year.

The science minister acknowledged the difficulties in meeting its goals.

“There are numerous difficulties in entering third stage trials,” Lim said. “There aren’t a lot of COVID-19 patients in South Korea so trials have to be conducted overseas. That costs a lot.”

South Korea’s daily COVID-19 caseload has remained under 1,000 in recent months, relatively lower than other countries.

There are currently five local companies, including SK Bioscience Co. and Genexine Inc., developing multiple types of COVID-19 vaccines.

The country has so far secured more than a combined 100 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen, AstraZeneca and Novavax, which are enough to inoculate its 51.3 million population.

Lim also said the ministry is paying keen attention to a plan for a global taxation on large multinational corporations by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“It is good that platform companies, such as Google and Netflix, will be taxed in South Korea. However, we have to consider that (local) export companies like Samsung Electronics and SK hynix will also be taxed overseas,” Lim said. “The taxation rate and targets are not yet finalized. We will prepare our strategy and policy direction once they are further discussed.”

Around 130 countries last week agreed on a deal to impose a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent and to share such tax revenue, according to the OECD.

Lim also addressed a recent Seoul court decision that ruled against video streaming giant Netflix Inc. in its dispute with internet service provider SK Broadband Co.

The minister added that the country will continue with its digital New Deal initiative, announced last year, which aims to spend 58.2 trillion won (US$51.6 billion) on key tech investments to create around 900,000 jobs by 2025.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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