South Korea's medicine exports hit an all-time high of US$2.3 billion last year despite a continued drop in the nation's overall outbound shipments of goods, data showed Monday.
The amount marks a 28.5% increase from a year earlier, according to a report by the Korea Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.
Asia's fourth-largest economy suffered an 8% fall in its total exports in 2015. Imports of medicine also shrank 1.8% on-year to $5.1 billion last year, helping improve the country's current account on medicine trade, according to South Korea's (Yonhap) News Agency.
South Korea has stepped up efforts to promote the biotech industry in search of a new economic growth engine.
"The exports of domestic medicine are continuing to grow regardless of South Korea's sluggish total trade recently," a researcher at Trade Statistics Service Cho Young-tae said.
A deficit in medicine trade slightly decreased last year as exports posted sharp growth, while imports were slightly down, he noted.
Cho, however, pointed out the need for South Korea to diversify its drug exports, currently focused on the Chinese and Japanese markets.
"It's the time to expand exports to the US and Europe, the world's largest medicine importers, beyond Asia," he added.