KATS Leading Technical
and Standards Assessment

Committed to Helping Small and Medium Firms Advance Into Foreign Markets

NewsWorld interviewed Nam In-suk, administrator of the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) about the role of the organization and the significance of the standards and certification policies in the coming days. ED
Question: Can you tell us about the policy direction of the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS)?
Answer: KATS has been exerting its utmost efforts so that domestic products will take the lead and strengthen their dominance in overseas markets through appropriate standardization. Toward that end, we plan to map out legal and institutional measures to transform the current standards development system in a market-friendly direction while strengthening the standardization capability of the private enterprises through, for instance, the introduction of a standardization program at the civilian level.
In addition, we will focus on developing a market-friendly standards system in consideration of the economic efficiency of standardization with the goal of maximizing the commercial and added values.
State-level activities will be promoted to cope with global issues like climate change. (For instance, the MPEG technology has been yielding more than 30 billion won of royalty income per year.)
For the purpose of strengthening the inter-industrial correlation through standards and technology, we will introduce the Project Manager (PM) system soon, which features the integration of standards and technology from the initial stage of a technology's development. The PM program is designed to create experts in charge of the overall monitoring and supervision, from the planning to the commercialization stages, with the goal of maximizing the effect of research and development investment.
In the safety area, we will take measures to ensure stability by promoting the market's voluntary supervision. This is intended to allow the manufacturers to produce safe and trustworthy products while consumers will contribute to preventing the distribution of faulty goods through voluntary supervision.
In addition, we plan to boldly delegate test and certification-related works to the civilian sector in a bid to maximize the efficient operation of the organization. Instead, KATS will concentrate on areas like the FTA and TBT negotiations.
Q: We know that KATS has been seeking to introduce the 'KC'mark as the nation's single representative accreditation. Can you tell us more about the background and future plans for the new mark?
A: Most advanced industrial nations have already adopted a national certificate system in their bids to raise their brand value and utilize it as a market barrier. For instance, the European Union and the United States employ 'CE'and 'UL,'respectively, while China and Japan have been adopting 'CCC'and 'PS.'Domestically, the government has introduced a total of 14 marks in 39 areas, which has caused many problems -- growing confusion on the part of consumers and increasing costs for enterprises to acquire the certifications.
To tackle the problem, an inter-ministerial task force team was set up in May 2005 with the mission of developing a single certification system to lay the foundation for the advancement of the standards and certification system.
Reaping fruit from these efforts, the government plans to come up with the KC mark, integrating the current marks in 33 areas. Assessment methods will be simplified into nine types to minimize the expenses for businesses.
In the future, we will also integrate the ministerial technology standards into one code and set up a database to allow easier and more convenient searches.
Q: We are wondering about the so-called LABCON project, pursued by KATS mainly for small and medium sized companies. Can you tell us about that?
A: The LABCON (from LABoratory to CONtainership) project has been designed to help small and medium companies develop new world-class technologies and products with high competitiveness in overseas markets. It has been in place since 2002.
From the year 2006, the project has been proactively carried out to assist in the research and development of successful products. Toward that end, the government has been providing technology and managerial guidance on 679 items over the last six years, designating 281 NeP certificates and 32 items as world-class products.
Recently, a growing number of small and medium companies have been urging the government to provide more guidance in the areas of procurement and funding so that they can more briskly advance into overseas markets.
Against this backdrop, KATS is poised to modify the related system more effectively with a stricter assessment on the feasibility of envisioned new technologies together with the steady operation of the LABCON team to maximize management efficiency.
We will also seek cooperation with related organizations like KOTRA to provide the companies with assistance in the areas of funding, overseas marketing, quality, research and development, equipment and human resources. All these are meant to set up a one-stop assistance system to enable any company to produce export goods once they are equipped with a new technology.
We have received applications for the LABCON project from 159 enterprises since June this year and plan to select 30-40 of them as beneficiaries.
Q: Can you tell us about the NeP system, which was introduced to accelerate new technology and product development by small and medium-sized companies with a focus on the outcome and future plans of the system.
A: The NeP system has been designed to help small and medium-sized technology enterprises suffering from difficulties in acquiring market access due to a lack of recognition among consumers. Under the system, the government is supposed to strictly assess the quality and offer certification.
Since the introduction of the system in January 2006, the government has so far provided NeP certificates on a total of 2,349 cases including education-oriented humanoid robots and radar-based automobile sensors, providing help to companies in their bids to enter the market. Sales of the certified goods increased 2.1 times locally and 2.7 times in foreign markets in the past two years.
To help the companies maintain steady growth in the future, KATS will delegate many of the certification-related work to the private sector while expanding its role for the promotion of certification efficiency, securing transparency and establishing the certification process and assessment barometers.
In order to increase sales of the NeP-certified goods, KATS will conduct a survey on the government agencies'purchase of related products, which will be reflected in the performance of state organizations. Along with these steps, KATS will also strengthen the monitoring of NeP products now on sale. nw

(above) KATS Administrator Nam In-suk. Korean and foreign celebrities on hand at a ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of COPOLCO (Consumer Policy Committee) in Seoul.

KATS Administrator Nam attends a welcoming reception to celebrate COPOLCO's plenary session in Seoul.

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