The Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) was reorganized last year to play a role in covering a wide range of national standards as a control tower for national standards management. To meet internal and external demands and challenges, KATS also established a new bureau to respond properly to technical barriers for international trade. In addition, KATS is converting supplier-centered standards into group standards, allowing for market demand. All of these innovative efforts have been made under the leadership of Seong Si-heon, administrator of the KATS. BusinessKorea had an opportunity to talk with him about his changed role and its business plan for this year. The following are excerpts from the interview with him.
You reorganized and renamed KATS in December last year, about eight months after you took office. Please give some detailed information about the new structure.
KATS was reorganized in December 12, 2013 in order to strengthen the role of industrial standards, which are one of the key drivers of economic and corporate growth, and to augment their economic added value.
The idea of the change in designation is to correspond to the requirement of controlling and managing consistency, both among the national standards and the standards policies among ministries, so that a pan-governmental national standards management system can work. At the same time, we established a new Bureau of Knowledge Industry Standards to cope with technical regulations, tackle international trade and technical barriers, and improve unfair government regulations in industries.
In the Bureau, a new division was set up to listen to the voice of industrial participants and handle the negotiations and implementations associated with free trade agreements. In addition, anther new division is in charge of evaluating technical regulation impacts and preventing redundant restrictions hampering the growth of corporate competitiveness. There is also a division to provide domestic and foreign standards and certification information while offering Korea’s testing and certification systems for major export destinations.
What is KATS doing to improve the national standards management system?
KATS has re-organized the Korean Industrial Standards (KS) to better reflect the current market demand and technological development, and moved ahead with a new standards development system to match the KS with those of each division.
First, we are converting supplier-centered product standards into group standards, allowing for market demand while managing the KS, based on legal certifications and government procurement. The KS with lower utilization are going to be repealed down the road, and those effective for the protection of consumer safety and required for compliance with international standards will be updated, too.
The standards that prevent the introduction of new technology by limiting industrial methods and materials or requiring excessive facilities will be revised into performance-based standards so that companies can feel less burden than before. The KS renovation process is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
Also, the standards enactment and revision procedure will be improved so that the authorities concerned can themselves work on and manage standardization plans, although all of the processes related to the KS have been handled by KATS until now. Plus, KATS is currently trying to match the KS with 800 or so technical standards for industrial products such as TVs, refrigerators, and furniture.
What is your evaluation of Korea’s testing, certification, and management systems in the global arena?
We cannot deny that Korean testing and certification agencies have a far way to go in terms of brand power, service diversity, and the like when compared to their counterparts in advanced countries such as BV of France, SGS of Switzerland, and Intertek of the UK.
At present, the Korean agencies’ capabilities are considered to be around 65.4% of those agencies of global leaders. In particular, the service expansion capabilities and the testing and certification standardization capabilities are just 46.9% and 53.6% of those of the global leading institutes.
Still, Korea is the world’s eighth largest trade country and owns huge testing and certification demand, along with welltrained experts, speedy yet inexpensive services, a high level of digitalization, and the ability to respond fast to market changes. We are expecting that our testing and certification sector will grow into a high-value-added industry in the near future through concentrated efforts.
What certification systems are available in Korea and what is their effect on export activities? How is the international exchange going on in this regard?
The Korea Laboratory Accreditation Scheme (KOLAS), the Korea Accreditation System (KAS), and the Korea Accreditation Board (KAB) are some of the examples, all of which have been officially acknowledged by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).
Up to this moment, approximately 700 testing and certification organizations have obtained acknowledgements, and the test reports and certificates issued by them are in use in the 66 member countries of the international bodies, contributing to the business activities of local exporters.
When it comes to the export of testing and certification systems, KATS has continued its talks with the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) since 2011, so that the Korea Testing Laboratory and the SASO signed an agreement for an air conditioner energy efficiency testing agency on November 5. The institute will not just set up testing equipment, but also transfer our software-side expertise such as testing techniques. It is very meaningful as the first case of overseas market penetration by a Korean testing agency.
The ISO General Assembly for 2015 is planned to be held in Korea. What is the meaning of playing host to it and its anticipated effects?
The ISO is one of the two pillars of the global standards industry, along with the IEC. The General Assembly in 2015 is expected to be a huge motivator for Korea to increase its international standing in this field.
The General Assembly is attended by over 700 people from 164 countries across the world and manages the international standards of 233 industrial segments. Greater participation will be made on the part of local industries, and domestic technologies will be reflected in international standards, which will be a boon to Korean companies’ overseas market penetration and export.
What is Korea’s international standing in the global arena in terms of the number of international standards adopted?
Korea has been engaged in international standardization activities since the early 2000s. During the short span of time of 10 or so years, the country has achieved significant growth in the ISO and the IEC alike, both qualitatively and quantitatively. For instance, Korea ranks 9th and 12th in the ISO and the IEC, respectively.
The number of international standards suggested by Korea jumped 24-fold from 24 to 561 between 2002 and 2013. Also, the country, a leader of the global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry, is the fourth-largest in terms of the number of suggested standards following Japan, Germany, and the United States. In addition, it ranks 11th and 8th in the number of executive members in the ISO and the IEC each.
What will be the tasks necessary for Korea to become a standardization powerhouse, and what is your blueprint in this vein?
It is said that the one who controls standards dominates the global economy, which shows the importance of the economic value of standards. I believe that Korea needs to turn itself into a leading international standards manager to be on par with its technological, economic, and industrial growth. KATS will be engaged in more strategic activities in international standardization and the ISO general meeting in 2015 and the IEC general meeting in 2018 will help take it to the leading position worldwide.
At the same time, we will continue to strive so that national R&D projects can lead to international standards. We will focus our resources on the fields with a greater impact in the export market and a higher proportion in the domestic industries, while providing more support for exporters through international standardization. Also, we are expecting that more Korean executive members will do their part in the international standardization organizations, providing more and more assistance in Korea’s standardization activities around the world.