Plans to increase R&D outlays to KRW 1 trillion by 2017 with the goal of raising its share in GDP to 7 percent.
Vice Minister Son Jae hak of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries
The revived Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) is pondering what new growth engines it should pursue consistent with the national policy goal of building the creative economy.
MOF Vice Minister Son Jae hak, in his interview with NewsWorld, said, “Our ministry plans to create new marine industries based on marine technologies, a combination of the conventional marine industries, biotechnology, ICT, and environmental technology, under the goal of realizing the creative economy.”
The following are excerpts from the interview in which he spoke of his ministry’s policy priorities, R&D strategies and other topics.
Question: Will you tell our readers about your ministry’s plans to explore new growth engines in the oceans and fisheries fields in an effort to help build the “creative economy”?
Answer: Our ministry plans to create new marine industries based on marine technologies, a combination of the conventional marine industries, biotechnology, ICT, and environmental technology with the goal of realizing the creative economy.
Initially, we are aiming to expand inroads into the marine bio market through development and commercialization of new medicines and materials using marine organisms and we will upgrade the Korean fish breeding and seed industry to the levels of advanced countries by focusing on genetic analysis of marine resources and cross-breeding. The ministry plans to nurture the state-of-the-art marine development industry through the development of underwater robots, deep-sea submersible vehicles with a maximum depth capacity of 6,000 meters, and the convergence of ICT with new technologies. We’re also seeking to commercialize eco-friendly energy technologies such as hydro-electric wave energy farms and cooling/ heating systems using ocean thermal energy, in response to climate change. We are also planning to add value to the shipbuilding and marine plant industry.
The MOF’s tasks for developing new marine industries are designed to create decent jobs and new growth engines with the mission of realizing the creative economy in the oceans and fisheries fields.
Q: Will you elaborate on the MOF’s R&D strategies to foster the oceans and fisheries sectors?
A: We plan to establish mid- and long-term oceans and fisheries R&D plans by consolidating the oceans and fisheries fields, which have been bifurcated so far, in order to lay an R&D foundation and improve investment efficiency.
In this regard, the MOF plans to raise its budgetary outlay to KRW 1 trillion by 2017 as part of efforts to ramp up its capacity in R&D activities. We’ll devote ourselves to maximizing R&D outcomes by shifting the R&D paradigm from a focus on basic research to R&D activities related to commercialization and industrialization. The move will strengthen the groundwork for exploring new growth engines and creating jobs with the goal of raising the percentage of the oceans and fisheries sectors out of the gross domestic product (GDP) to 7 percent.
The MOF endeavors to provide support to step up the nation’s competitive edge in ballast water treatment technology to keep in line with environment and safety standards set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) while striving to expand R&D investments in marine disaster preparedness. We’ll do our utmost to ensure that a combination of the conventional fisheries industry, biotechnology, and ICT will have synergetic effects on the fisheries and marine biotechnology sectors. The ministry also strives to expand R&D investments in the marine tourism and leisure sectors to give a shot in the arm to both fields.
Q: Will you explain your ministry’s plan to develop the fisheries industry into a future growth engine?
A: The MOF has set as one of the national major policy agendas a plan to transform the fisheries sector into a future industry to usher in an era of prosperity for those in the sector.
First, the ministry is seeking to innovate the aquaculture industry and expand the scope of the fisheries industry in the country’s economy. We plan to ratchet up R&D activities toward tuna, flatfish, and abalone to nurture the aquaculture industry and add value to the fisheries industry. The move is designed to ramp up fisheries production and exports and create jobs for building the creative economy. Fishing communities that depend primarily on producing fisheries products will be turned into centers of the “senary” industry, encompassing the fisheries, processing/distribution, marine ecology, tourism, and secondary and tertiary industries.
Second, we will do our utmost to ensure a stable supply of fisheries products to the consumers. The ministry strives to actively build and manage fisheries resources, maintain the size of fishing fleet at the appropriate levels, establish right order in fishing practices and develop overseas fishing resources. It also endeavors to improve the fisheries distribution environment so that fisheries producers can sell fisheries products at the proper prices, and consumers can buy quality products at reasonable prices.
Third, we will do our best to upgrade the functions of ports to protect the livelihood and properties of those in the fisheries industry and build key infrastructure for the fishing communities. The safety of fishing facilities will be strengthened to cope with frequent typhoons and climate change, and efforts will be made to develop ports, dovetailing the characteristics of each fishing area.
Fourth, the MOF is trying to spearhead efforts to create new jobs by fostering the fish processing industry. We plan to expand centers for processing and distributing fisheries products customized for each district, as well as to revamp certification systems, including the introduction of globally recognized certification schemes, such as eco-labelling, to improve public confidence in fisheries products.
And, last but not least, the MOF is devoting itself to improving the livelihood of the fishing communities. We plan to establish a social safety net tailored to meet fishing communities’ and fishermen’s welfare needs by lowering fishermen’s medical insurance premiums and increasing benefits while dramatically improving their educational, medical, and living conditions. The ministry is seeking to amend the act on the specialization of fishing villages to provide support for fishing community residents’ capacities for the sustainable development of their communities.
Vice Minister Son Jae-hak of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries visits the
Seoul Seafood Show 2013, which took place from April 18-20 at COEX.
Q: Will you tell us about steps to tide over the Korean shipping industry’s liquidity crisis and the establishment of new shipping and maritime financing systems?
A: As the domestic shipping market has been in an unprecedentedly prolonged downturn since 2008, shipping companies have suffered from woes such as accumulated deficits, lower credit ratings, and avoidance to invest in the shipping field. The top 10 shipping companies have seen cumulative losses swelling to KRW 6.1 trillion during the period between 2009 and the end of 2012, including KRW 2.1 trillion for the whole of 2012, as well as a debt ratio surge from 163 percent in 2008 to 498 percent in 2012. On June 7, STX Ocean, the nation’s biggest bulk shipping company, filed for court receivership, a move feared to undermine the Korean shipping industry’s international credit ratings.
In this regard, the MOF is consulting with relevant agencies about policy support steps to prevent the spread of the financial liquidity crisis and resuscitate the domestic shipping industry. Among the steps government authorities are considering is a call for financial institutions to refrain from recovering capital and policy loan providers’ moves to bolster the credit of shipping companies suffering from difficulties in issuing corporate bonds. The ministry plans to implement steps to minimize the effects of the post-receivership of STX Ocean, including the possible disruption of supplies of strategic materials.
Given the capital-intensive nature of the shipping industry, which makes it vulnerable to economic cycles, the ministry is seeking to build a safety net in which shipping companies can secure necessary funds even in a cycle of downturn.
A public-private task force headed by the Financial Services Commission is exploring options to introduce new shipping and maritime financing systems by readjusting policy loan providers’ functions. We’ll devote ourselves to building a safety net so that shipping companies can practically benefit from financial support and the domestic shipping industry can fundamentally cope with repeated crises.
A deep-sea mineral resources mining robot dubbed “Minero,” which was test-operated by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and the Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology (KIOST) recently, has been developed with Korea’s own technology.