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Attempt to Sell WiBro Technology to the U.S. Thwarted

Posted May. 21, 2007 03:01,   


Prosecutors and the National Intelligence Service caught former and current research engineers at an IT company attempting to sell WiBro (mobile internet) technology valued at 15 trillion won to a U.S. company.

Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday that it accused and arrested three former engineers and a current engineer at Posdata for selling core WiBro technology that Posdata developed.

The prosecutors believes that three former engineers at Posdata’s U.S. R&D center, including the director of the R&D center, were involved in selling the technology. The prosecution is summoning them to Korea in collaboration with U.S. authorities.

Caught right before a sale of core technology-

After establishing an Internet tech company, identified as the “I” company, in the U.S. in December, Kim was fired by Posdata in March. Posdata researchers who were close to Kim then allegedly stole core WiBro technologies from Posdata by using external hard discs and e-mail starting last October to March. They then left Posdata to work for the Korea branch of the “I” company.

The technologies they stole included “technical memos” containing technical analysis of WiBro development, “base station channel cards” which determine the performance of WiBro base stations, and test results of related equipment.

Only some of the data was transferred to the headquarters of the “I” company, but the attempt was spotted before they sell the core technology to a U.S. buyer. They reportedly attempted to sell “I” company for 180 billion won to a U.S. IT company after upgrading the stolen technology by adding some 30 Posdata employees to the “I” company.

The NIS said, “They reviewed related laws in advance to prepare for possible legal issues regarding the leakage of technologies, and they kept the company’s technological data private and tried to sell it. That shows that they didn’t have any ethics.”

Next-generation growth engine almost lost-

Korea has had the source technology of WiBro, since the country successfully commercialized the technology last June after the Ministry of Information and Communication and IT companies began developing the technology in 2004.

According to the Ministry, the domestic WiBro market will reach 8.1 billion won from 2006 to 2010, and the WiBro equipment market will reach 5.8 billion won. The global WiBro market is expected to grow to a 24-trillion won market. Also, the technology is considered a “next-generation growth engine,” which will employ about 270,000 people in Korea over the next six years.

Prosecutors and Potsdata estimated the possible damage could have been 15 trillion won if the core technology had been sold.

A Posdata official said, “If all of the core technology related to WiBro was sold, the technological gap between Korea and the rest of the world would have narrowed considerably,” adding, “The damage to Posdata from the attempt was minimal, with no major disruption to its ongoing development projects.”

Apart from the investigation by the prosecution, Posdata filed a civil law suit against “I” company with a U.S. court. It is also planning to file a criminal law suit as well, according to U.S. laws.

Meanwhile, prosecutors said that the they dealt with just 39 technology leakage cases in 1999, but the number increased significantly to 151 cases in 2002, 165 in 2004, 207 in 2005 and 237 in 2006. Some 38 cases have been reported in the first three months of this year.

The prosecution estimates that damage from technology leakage would have reached 96 trillion won from 2003 to 2006 and 37 trillion won in the first quarter of this year, had they failed to prevent such cases.

Prosecutors said, “It is hard to prevent or detect technology leakages because the law does not allow wiretapping of suspected technology leakage perpetrators,” indicating that relevant laws need revision.