The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) announced its intention on December 28 to enhance the safeguarding of high-tech strategic technologies by formally designating and managing specialized personnel under the ambit of the National High-Tech Strategic Industries Act.
South Korea has taken a stance to toughen punishments for the theft of industrial secrets, aiming to address concerns that the existing regulations lack the potency to deter attempts at siphoning crucial technologies from companies like Samsung.
“The exact number of specialized personnel to be designated will be determined based on company feedback,” remarked Kang Gam-chan, a trade security policy officer at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. “By enhancing the oversight of personnel within the high-tech strategic technology domain, we anticipate a reduction in instances of technology leakage.”
The government plans to classify key experts as specialized personnel and bolster their supervision in response to the prevalent instances of technology leaks in vital national high-tech industries, such as semiconductors and secondary batteries.
Additionally, South Korea’s Sentencing Commission, operating under the oversight of the Supreme Court of Korea, has opted to intensify penalties and extend prison terms for the leakage of South Korean technology. The country’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced that comprehensive details regarding the updated sentencing guidelines are anticipated to be disclosed early next year.
While the exact nation of focus was not explicitly mentioned, analysts have pointed toward China as a suspected destination for many South Korean technology leaks. This strategic measure seeks to counter the vulnerabilities within the nation’s technology sector and enhance the protection of its proprietary innovations.
To reinforce security further, companies can establish technology protection agreements with these specialists, mitigating the risks of secrets related to strategic technologies being leaked and constraining their employment abroad.
Firms can also request governmental intervention to share immigration information with their experts if there are legitimate concerns about the potential outflow of strategic technologies.
Despite the existing regulations, the current scenario reveals a gap in penalties and actual consequences. The Industrial Technology Protection Act (Intentional Leakage) outlines that the leakage of national core technology can lead to imprisonment for a minimum of three years and a fine not exceeding 1.5 billion won.
Similarly, the punishment for intentional leakage under the National High-Tech Strategic Industries Act can involve imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to 2 billion won.
To address previously unregulated facets of technology leaks, such as those occurring after a foreign private equity fund acquires a South Korean company, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has outlined plans to incorporate these scenarios into a revised draft law.
Recent instances of suspected industrial espionage have prompted action from South Korean authorities. In the past four months alone, the police have arrested 77 individuals in connection with 35 cases of alleged industrial espionage, underscoring the pressing need for strengthened measures against such activities.
In response to these concerns, the Sentencing Commission of the Supreme Court convened on the 8th of this month to undertake substantial revisions of the existing sentencing guidelines related to technology leakage crimes. The commission is on track to finalize and vote on these revised guidelines by March of the coming year, signaling an impending intensification of penalties for individuals found guilty of technology leaks.
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