Industrial spy is indicted for theft of key ship plans
A Chinese industrial spy was indicted yesterday on charges of stealing shipbuilding technologies from a prominent Korean company, Busan prosecutors said yesterday.
The Busan District Prosecutors Office said yesterday that its special investigation unit has charged a 35-year-old Chinese ship classification surveyor affiliated with the American Bureau of Shipping with stealing key shipbuilding technology while working at a local shipyard.
He had stolen plans for building drill ships, expensive vessels used in oil or gas field exploration. The prosecutors said such ships can cost up to 1 trillion won ($995 million).
It remains to be seen, however, if the technologies were actually leaked outside the nation’s borders. Prosecutors said they will further investigate that possibility.
The prosecution teamed up with the National Intelligence Service and conducted a joint investigation to catch the spy. While the suspect was indicted and detained, his name, along with those of the local firm and his Chinese employer, were not made public as of yesterday.
According to prosecutors, the suspect was dispatched to the Korean shipbuilding firm in September last year. He is suspected of downloading about 1,500 files from the company’s server onto his laptop. The data included the drill ship design plan and other technologies related to liquefied natural gas transportation vessels, the prosecutors said.
Korea is a pioneer in drill ship construction, prosecutors said. Korea’s top three shipmakers produce more than 90 percent of the vessels purchased around the world, and the government has designated the technology one of the top seven industrial secrets of the nation’s shipbuilding industry.
According to prosecutors, the Korean firm spent tens of billions of won over the past 10 years and mobilized 3,000 workers to develop the technologies, showing concern that financial loss could be astronomical if the leaked information is actually used outside the country.
The Korea Shipbuilders’ Association said the nation’s industry would suffer about 3.2 trillion won in losses over the next five years in the case of such a leak.
“We could not find out if the stolen technologies were handed over to China or not,” a prosecution source said. “But, many Chinese inspectors go back to work in China’s shipyards after their rotation here ends. So, there is a high possibility of a leak.”
While the Chinese suspect is affiliated with the American Bureau of Shipping, he was dispatched to Korea at the special request of a state-run Chinese maritime corporation, the prosecution said.
In a separate case, two other Chinese suspects were also booked on a similar charge yesterday. They were accused of stealing technologies for building container ships and petrochemical product transportation vessels from another Korean heavy industries company since January last year. Due to jurisdiction issues, no immediate legal action was taken against them, the prosecution said.
By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [email@example.com]