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Technology transfer case grips Korea

Technology transfer case grips Korea

Seoul: South Korean prosecutors on Tuesday charged four local shipbuilding engineers with attempting to leak to China technology allegedly worth billion of dollars, the Agence France Presse reported

In the second leak case involving China in less than three months, the Seoul southern district prosecutors' office accused a 53-year-old former chief engineer at an undisclosed local shipyard of copying blueprints for 69 vessels and a shipyard before quitting in March 2006.

The man, identified only as Eom, moved to a local ship-design firm which has launched a joint venture with China's Qingdao city government to build a large shipyard.

He was scheduled to leave for China in late July to work on the project.

Separately, prosecutors also indicted three employees who formerly worked for the local shipbuilder, accusing them of handing over other confidential business data to Eom's ship-design firm.

"Technology leaks have been reported in the auto and semiconductor industries but not in the shipbuilding industry," Kim Hyun-Ho, the senior prosecutor handling the case, told AFP.

"Concerns about technology leaks to China spread to shipbuilding."

Kim said the local shipbuilder estimated the value of the attempted technology leaks at up to 35 trillion won (some 38 billion dollars).

The leaks could have narrowed the technology gap between South Korea and China by two to three years, he added.

In May, prosecutors accused five former and current employees of Kia Motors of selling technical secrets on car assembly to China.

Kia, the country's second largest carmaker and an affiliate of Hyundai Motor, said at the time the industrial espionage may help China catch up with South Korea in the automaking industry.  [01/08/07]