South Korea's second-largest textile company Kolon Industries Inc is to start producing aramid fibres later this year in an attempt to develop a new profit source.

Currently, DuPont in the US and Japan's Teijin Ltd control the aramid fibre market.

"We started research on the fibre in 1979, and finally decided to tap into the market under the brand name of Heracron to reshape our company into a textile producer of cutting-edge materials," said Kim Yong-Joong, a company spokesman.

He added that Kolon is the first South Korean company commercialising the material - and only the third in the world to do so.

The official said aramid fibre is the strongest fibre ever known. It is five times tougher than steel of the same weight, and is resistant to temperatures of up to 500°C. The fibre is used to make such products as flame-resistant clothing, protective helmets and automotive brakes.

Beginning next year, Kolon said it hopes to generate annual sales of 50 billion won (US$50 million) from the aramid business. This could rise to 300 billion won in 2010.

The company is also seeking to develop an even stronger next-generation aramid fibre.

By Peter Chang.