Samsung’s plant reports are sensitive, says panelA government-appointed panel concluded that internal reports by Samsung Electronics on the working conditions of its factory employees contain sensitive information on semiconductor technologies that are vital to the nation’s economy - and shouldn’t be made public.
“An expert committee examined and decided that some contents [of the reports] by the applicant [Samsung Electronics] are national core technologies,” said the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in a press release distributed late Tuesday. “[The committee] concluded that it is possible to deduce manufacturing processes and assembly techniques with information included in the reports such as chemical materials [used]…and [the] layout [of factories].”
The government describes “national core technologies” as any industrial process with “high technological and economic value,” which, if exposed, could “do grave harm” to the development of the economy and national security.
In the semiconductor sector, the government has designated seven technologies as “national core technologies.”
The panel, which was composed of 13 experts in the semiconductor industry, concluded that Samsung Electronics’ so-called work environment assessment result reports contain six of these “core technologies” including manufacturing and assembly processes for DRAM chips below 30 nanometers.
“Concentration of the materials and arrangement of equipment used in the semiconductor manufacturing process are information that may allow competitors to catch up quickly [with Samsung],” Kim Jeong-ho, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, told the JoongAng Ilbo.
An official from the Trade Ministry told reporters in a briefing Wednesday that the panel was surprised at how detailed some of the information was.
“China is pouring in 210 trillion won ($196.9 billion) to develop its semiconductor industry and such information could easily narrow the few years of gap and allow [Chinese chipmakers] to catch up immediately,” the official added.
The decision will be welcomed by Samsung Electronics as it awaits a decision by authorities on whether it must disclose the reports to the public or not.
The Daejeon High Court ruled in February in favor of the family of an employee who died of leukemia while working at the company’s semiconductor factory in Onyang, South Chungcheong, ordering the company to make public the reports. The Labor Ministry subsequently told Samsung Electronics to disclose the reports by April 20.
Following an order by the Labor Ministry, the chipmaker on March 26 asked the Trade Ministry to review the reports to see if they contained details of technologies vital to the national economy. It also filed a petition with the Suwon District Court on April 13 for an injunction to block the disclosure of the reports.
After the Trade Ministry’s panel announced its decision Tuesday, the central administrative appeals commission, which is run by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, decided to accept the request by the chipmaker to suspend disclosure of the reports. The Labor Ministry postponed the due date for disclosure indefinitely.
BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [email@example.com]