Beginning this week, 2.5 tons of non-woven fabric (melt blown MB) for mask filters, which has been imported for the first time since the new coronavirus outbreak, will be delivered to face mask factories, who suffered a shortage of MB filters. Speedy cooperation between the government and Samsung Group has made this happen.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy supplied the first shipment of MB filters to four Korean mask manufacturers on March 26. They are expected to start putting imported MB filters into their production lines as early as March 27 to additionally produce up to 2.5 million additional masks.
The import of MB filters is the first fruit of public-private efforts that began in February to get hold of overseas MB filters that meet Korean mask standards. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and KOTRA searched for companies that produce MB filters worldwide at the beginning of February, and found MB filters that meet the Korean mask standard Korea Filter (KF) in two countries including one in Europe.
Since the government faced a complicated procedure to directly contract with overseas MB filter manufacturers, it shortened the period by utilizing networks of Samsung Electronics and Samsung C&T. Samsung made contracts with foreign MB filter manufacturers, imported MB filters and handed them over to the Public Procurement Service of Korea. The Public Procurement Service also contributed to the process by reducing its domestic acquisition contract period from 40 days to 5 days.
A total of 53 tons of overseas MB filters will be imported to Korea until June, including the 2.5 tons supplied on the day. “4.5 tons will arrive in Korea next week,” said an official of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. “As additional import negotiations with one or two companies are in the final stages so imports will increase further after their conclusions.”
On top of that, the Ministry of Industry and Energy announced on the same day that the ministry and chemical fiber manufacturer Toray Advanced Materials Korea agreed to start a system to produce 13 tons of non-woven fabric for MB filters per day starting on March 31. Toray Advanced Materials will convert its existing diaper material production line at its Gumi Plant in North Gyeongsang Province into a KF-80 MB production line. The company will be able to produce 13 tons of MB nonwoven per day. Thirteen tons of MB nonwoven be made into 6,500,000 face masks.