Mar. 22, 2006
The National Intelligence Service and prosecutors have uncovered a
plot to leak cutting-edge mobile phone technology to Kazakhstan. It
was the first major case of industrial espionage on behalf of a
Central Asian country. So far, China and Taiwan have been the main
destinations for purloined core technology.
Seoul District Prosecutors Office on Wednesday arrested a Samsung
Electronics researcher identified as Lee (34) and an accomplice
identified as Chang (also 34) on charges of stealing blueprints for
Samsung=A1=AFs two latest mobile phones and trying to sell them to a major
telecommunications firm in Kazakhstan.
Prosecutors say Lee downloaded and printed 15 pages of diagrams
related to a mobile phone with built-in antenna and a cutting-edge
slim phone in November last year. Lee allegedly showed the drawings to
two officials with the Kazakh company who were visiting Korea, and
together with Chang proposed a technology partnership.
Prosecutors said Chang drafted a contract for technology consulting
services and faxed it to the Kazakh firm on Nov. 27, demanding a US$2
million fee. When the company did not respond, Chang on Dec. 16 gave
another two pages of diagrams to a Kazakh living in Korea who acted as
a middleman and asked him to deliver them to the firm.
Lee, who has been working with Samsung Electronics for four years,
stole the blueprints to pay off debts of W100 million (US$100,000),
the prosecution said. During the investigation, Lee denied the
charges, telling prosecutors he was merely exploring new sources of
income and work opportunities overseas.
Samsung Electronics said the attempt could have caused losses of W1.3
trillion (US$1.3 billion). The NIS and prosecutors say industrial
espionage on behalf of overseas firms is on the rise. In high-profile
cases, an attempt to leak Hynix Semiconductor technology to China was
foiled in July last year and another attempt to leak Samsung
Electronics GSM mobile phone technology to China in November. The NIS
said technology subject to attempted theft was valued at W13 trillion
in 2003, rising to W35 trillion in 2005.
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