Sunday, May 13, 2007

KIA's Secret Agent Men

The major IP news recently in Korea is the theft of trade secrets from KIA Motors by nine current and former employees who sold the information to China. A good summary of the case, and the worry about theft in general in Korea can be found here

I however have a profound measure of boredom for this case. A shocking amount of trade secret theft from Korean companies has been a constant low level news story for years. I commented on the phenomenon a year and half ago here. The above linked story gives a bit of an update on the NIS estimates quoted in my old post. It is also worth noting that these are REPORTED cases, who knows the numbers about the successful thefts or the foiled unreported ones? (one has to remember the "shame" to the company from such a theft).

One thing I can never understand about espionage, industrial or national, is things like this:

On Thursday, nine former and incumbent employees of Kia Motors, South Korea's No. 2 automaker, were indicted on charges of illegally transferring key carmaking technologies to China...Leaked technologies were then transferred to a Chinese automaker for payments of some 230 million won ($248,000).

So at least nine guys and US$248,000. Which means each betrayed a trust for a little over US$25,000 on average. Or perhaps more appropriate in this case, the cost of a new KIA sedan. Woefully under-compensated if you ask me.


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