Korea Can’t Fill R&D Openings, While PhRMA Raises Concerns About the Country

flag of south korea planted on a globe in the country

When biotech companies post openings for new positions, hiring managers often face the immense task of sorting through numerous resumes of qualified candidates. However, in South Korea, hiring managers are facing a different problem – a dearth of qualified candidates.

According to a report in The Korea Times, pharmaceutical and biotech companies in South Korea are struggling to find qualified candidates to work in research and development positions, as well as other departments within the companies. It’s become such an issue that company leaders are appealing to the government to encourage programs that will help develop the workers they need. Citing the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Korea Times said pharmaceutical and biotech firms failed to fill a significant number of the job vacancies in 2018 in South Korea. According to the data, only 77 percent of the research and development positions in South Korea were filled during the same year.

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The same data showed that 86.4 percent of sales and management roles were filled and 86.8 percent of quality control positions were filled during the same time frame.

The Times noted that the companies didn’t have a shortage of applicants. Instead, they had a shortage of candidates who had the necessary skills and training for the positions being sought.

In its report, the Times cited several unnamed biotech executives who called for the government of South Korea to develop support measures to promote pharma and biotech, which are seen as keen growth engines for the nation’s economy.

“As pharmaceutical and biotech industries have received attention as new growth engines to drive the nation's future, the government needs to be more active in establishing infrastructure to cultivate talented workers,” an unnamed official from Seoul-based biotech told the Times.

At the same time that the South Korea pharma industry is having difficulty finding qualified candidates for R&D and other positions, that country is also facing intense scrutiny from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). The trade organization representing U.S. pharma interests has asked the U.S. Trade Representative to designate South Korea as a priority foreign country. According to a report in Korea Biomedical Review, the request is “to deal with these countries alleged restrictions on intellectual property right protections and market accesses.”

According to the report, PhRMA took aim at South Korea over allegations that it does not “provide adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights or fair and equitable market access to U.S. companies.” PhRMA raised concerns about Korea following renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. The trade organization said Korea has continued to “devalue innovative medicines developed by U.S. companies severely, contrary to its obligations and the spirit of the renegotiation,” according to KBR’s report.

In addition to South Korea, PhRMA also raised concerns over Canada, Japan and Malaysia. Brian Toohey, PhRMA senior vice president for international advocacy, told KBR that “damaging price controls in Canada, Japan, Korea and many other countries are jeopardizing American exports and limiting access to new medicines.”

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