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Boryung eyes global expansion as 60th birthday approaches

Sept 22,2017
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Fujii Ryuta, Carlos Arenas Wiedfeldt
Boryung Pharmaceutical, which started off as a small local drug store in Jongno District, central Seoul, will celebrate its 60th birthday next month.

The Korean pharmaceutical business has now far outgrown the Jongno store, expanding to becoming a midsize company with a number of steady sellers like Yonggaksan and Gelfos.

On the back of that success, Boryung now plans to fortify its global stance with its first self-developed drug, Kanarb, a hypertension cure. In some Latin American countries it is known as Arahkor.

“It is not common to run a company for 60 years since its foundation,” said Kim Seung-ho, founder and chairman of the pharmaceutical company. “I want to celebrate the moment meaningfully,” he added.

Kim said Yonggaksan has a special meaning for both him and the company. “It has been 50 years since Yonggaksan was launched in partnership with Japan’s Ryukakusan,” Kim said. “It is the product that Boryung has its roots in.”

Yonggaksan is a powder made from herbs that cures sore throats. It was created by Ryukakusan, but Boryung has produced it in Korea since 1966 when Kim signed a technical cooperation partnership with Ryukakusan CEO Fujii Ryuta.

Kim thought the medicine would do well in the Korean market considering domestic consumers’ preference for medicinal herbs that could be supplied locally. For Boryung, which didn’t even have its own factory at the time, the launch of the drug was critical.

“[I decided to share the method of making the medicine] not just for profit,” said Fujii, CEO of Ryukakusan. “The biggest goal was to be able to contribute to Koreans’ health. Now, we use Boryung’s Korean factory if there is a natural disaster in Japan and vice versa,” the CEO added.

While Yonggaksan played a crucial role in Boryung’s development, Kim hopes that the growing popularity of Kanarb overseas will help raise the company’s profile in the global market.

Kanarb is a cure for high blood pressure which Boryung succeeded in developing with its own technology after 18 years of R&D and a total investment of 50 billion won ($44.1 million).

It was the 15th new drug in Korea that was approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. Boryung founder Kim said Kanarb was the first domestically made drug to be exported. Kanarb raised nearly 10 billion won in the first year following its launch in March 2011. This year, it is expected to raise 60 billion won.

Kanarb products are now being sold in more than 50 countries through licensed partnerships worth $413 million in total. It is considerably more successful on the global stage than any other domestically developed medicine.

The drug is doing especially well in Mexico. It was launched there through a partnership with local pharmaceutical company Stendhal.

According to industry data, Kanarb accounted for 18.8 percent of cardiology prescriptions in the last week of August 2015, taking the top spot just 11 months after launching in September 2014.

“Cardio Metabolism field is a very competitive market where already there are about eight ARBs well positioned and additionally more than 60 generics with very low cost,” said Carlos Arenas Wiedfeldt, CEO of Stendhal.

“However, Arahkor was able to make a differentiation that is very clear for the doctors which is blood pressure, variability control that even our competitors have started to use as a key word,” he added.

With Boryung, Wiedfeldt said that he expects to see business double in the next few years.

“I plan to invest in human resources to make Boryung a 100-year-old company. Using a site in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi and my private donation of 10 billion won, I am planning to make a training center. I will invest in future talent and donate the profits made out of this institution back to society,” Kim said.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]