Stop the industrial spiesMajor technologies developed by Posco, one of the world’s largest steel makers, have been illegally transferred to a Chinese company. It was done by two of the company’s former researchers who stole high value-added cold-rolled steel plate manufacturing technology for 5 billion won ($5.4 million) for a Chinese steel manufacturer.
It was discovered that the two copied all the information they needed to get the money just before quitting their jobs at Posco.
The technologies took 10 years and the efforts of 150 researchers to develop. Estimates are that the lost technology will cost Posco more than 2.8 trillion won.
The stealing of technology has been on the rise. Industries that may be victims include ship and steel makers, cell phone firms and even biotech firms. Recently, workers at Kia Motors illegally sold manufacturing technologies of the Sorento, the sports utility vehicle, to a Chinese company. And several employees at Posdata attempted to sell Wibro, the next generation wireless internet technology, to a U.S. company.
Some Chinese companies are not stopping at just copying a product ― they are even setting up copying factories. In the meantime, the technological level of Chinese companies has almost approached that of Korea’s.
Since 2004 to June this year, 97 cases of technology leakage were found and the estimated financial loss is about 11.9 trillion won, according to a report from the National Intelligence Service. Obviously, the number of undiscovered cases is far more than this. Recently, foreign companies and their employees in Korea have engaged in large- scale attempts.
Companies must hurry to establish stronger security measures. In the case of Posco, only two former employees were able to sell strictly confidential information. With this kind of security, similar cases will continue. Adequate compensation for the workers to prevent them from any temptation is needed.
Leaking technology is a crime that is the same as selling a person’s own country.
No mercy should be involved in punishing them. Strict penalties must be given. Current law allows the court to sentence them to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to 700 million won, but that is not enough.
The suggested prison time in the United States is up to 15 years. In the United States, industrial criminals are considered spies. Cooperation among the police, prosecutors and the National Intelligence Service is also essential.