The South Korean prosecution has indicted seven officials including a former researcher at a local supplier of Samsung Display Co. and a Chinese national for allegedly trying to sell national core technologies to China, the prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.
The Suwon District Prosecutor’s Office had launched a joint investigation with National Intelligence Service into suspected technology theft and arrested and charged three officials including a 36-year-old researcher surnamed Kwon, a 30-year-old Chinese national, and a 39-year-old professor at a national research institution surnamed Lee with violation of industrial technology protection law. The office also prosecuted four others without detention.
Kwon is suspected of picking out 5,130 files containing organic light emitting diodes (OLED)-related technology owned by a Korean company from August 24 last year to Feb. 23 this year while working as a researcher at a local contractor of Samsung Display Co. and trying to hand them over to a Chinese industry rival. He had allegedly taken out the files with three other researchers at his firm who have been all charged without detention after being offered 200 million won ($178,333) or triple the amount of his annual salary from the Chinese national working as a manager at a Chinese company if Kwon joins the rival firm with the OLED technology.
OLEDs produce vivid colors and are being used in many television and mobile liquid crystal displays (LCDs) as they have a flexible device structure. OLED-related technologies were designated as one of national core technologies by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in 2013. Korea currently accounts for 95 percent or more of the world’s OLED panel production. The Korean company Kwon worked for also invested about 50 billion won in research and development for the related technology.
It is also the first time for a Korean investigative agency to charge a foreign national with suspected technology leakage.
An official from the prosecutor’s office said that it has been difficult so far to punish foreign nationals of overseas companies involved in collusion with a Korean official that had leaked national technology due to challenges in conducting mandatory investigation. The official, however, added that the prosecution has been able to prevent leakage of national core technology by arresting suspects including the Chinese national thanks to active cooperation by the damaged company and the National Intelligence Service’s prevention activity.
Meanwhile, a separate prosecution investigation also revealed a case in which a suspect tried to sell another national core technology - wind turbine blade testing and production technology - to a Chinese buyer. The Korean government and regional governments have been nurturing the country’s wind power generation industry since 2006 by injecting 60 billion won in research funds, enabling it to own world-class blade testing and production technology.
By Boo Jang-won and Lee Eun-joo
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]