By David Drickhamer Asia appears to have caught the ISO 9000 bug. Through the end of last year the number of ISO 9000 certificates issued in the Far East grew 45% to approximately 81,900, or 20% of the world total. The region was lead by China, which recorded a 70% increase (25,657 total), according to data compiled by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), located in Geneva. Significant growth also was reported in Japan, up 47% to 21,329, and Korea, up 34% to 15,429. Worldwide, the number of ISO 9000-certified operations increased 19% to 408,631, as of Dec. 31, 2000. Although it still represents over half of the world's total ISO 9000 certifications, new certifications in Europe grew at only a 16% pace. Annual growth slowed most significantly in the UK (63,725 total), originator of the international quality standard. But Europe had its hot spots in 2000. The number of ISO 9000-certified operations more than doubled in the Czech Republic to 3,885. Italy recorded a 44% increase to 30,367, nearly matching the certificate total of Germany. And in Spain the number of ISO 9000-certified companies jumped 45% to 12,576. Interestingly, in the U.S. the number of ISO 9000-certified operations grew a marginal 6% last year to 35,000. This compares to one-year growth of 32% in 1999.