South Korea's Samsung Electronics plans to invest about 500 billion won ($389 million) in the biotech medicine business, a local internet news provider said on Wednesday, quoting a top policymaker.

The nation's economy minister Lee Youn-ho said that Samsung, the world's top maker of memory chips and flat-screen TVs, would spend the amount over the next five years on the biosimilar business, Edaily reported.

Biosimilars are versions of biopharmaceuticals whose patents have expired.

Samsung declined to confirm the size of the investment but said biosimilars presented a new growth opportunity for the technology giant.

Biosimilars is one the businesses we aim to grow strategically, said James Chung, a Samsung spokesman. We are planning to participate (in the business) aggressively.

Separately, the economy ministry said in a statement that it signed a letter of intent with several domestic firms, including Samsung Electronics and LG Life Science, on their investment in a government biosimilar industry development initiative, with Korea Development Bank and a state-led fund already committed to providing financial support.

($1=1284.7 Won)

(Reporting by Seo Eun-kyung; Additional reporting by Rhee So-eui; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)