Like many other nations, South Korea is facing the challenge of meeting the needs of a rapidly aging population without wrecking its finances. The country currently has more than 6 million people above the age of 65, out of a total population of slightly over 50 million. This population segment is projected grow to more than 8 million by 2020. South Korean robotics is envisioned as part of the likely medical care for many of these people.
We’ve already looked at how the government is supporting South Korean robotics research and development. On the commercial side, the inevitable growth in demand for healthcare services is an opportunity for increased robot sales, both at home and abroad.
For example, Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. is developing various types of surgical robots, including systems designed for arthroplasty, the surgical reconstruction or replacement of joints.
Meere Co., on the other hand, is working on a government-sponsored project to develop a laparoscopic robot that can be used to treat cancer using minimally invasive surgery.
In addition, Koh Young Technology Inc., which specializes in 3D measurement and inspection technologies, is planning to expand its business into the medical sector. The South Korean company is preparing to commercialize a brain surgery robot with the goal of winning approval from the Korea Food and Drug Administration by the end of this year and from the U.S. FDA sometime next year.
Koh Young Technology is already testing the system with a couple of university hospitals in Korea as well as with the Harvard Medical School in the U.S.
- Not only is South Korean robotics research getting government investment, but it’s also directed at responding to fast-growing markets such as healthcare.
- Robots for minimally invasive surgery and deliveries within hospitals are intended to help deal with an aging population.
- South Korea is also developing collaborative robots, social robots, and military drones (see examples below).