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​Samsung chip executive jailed for attempted tech leak to China

The executive allegedly violated South Korea's industrial technology protection laws.
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Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributor on

A senior executive at Samsung's semiconductor division has been jailed for attempting to leak trade secrets to China.

The executive, who was in charge of quality control at the South Korea's tech giant logic chip or processors business, was in July caught by security attempting to leave company compounds with thousands of copied documents that covered technology data on application processors (AP). Samsung reported the man to authorities.

Police, after the two-month investigations, said the executive, with the surname Lee, was attempting to leak the documents to an unnamed company in China. A judge ordered Lee to be jailed late Thursday until trial for violating industrial technology protection laws.

The authorities retrieved the documents the 51-year-old copied. The police will further investigate whether Lee has attempted to leak technology in the past.

Semiconductor technology is the designated core national technology by South Korea, and leaking them without permission from authorities is illegal.

Samsung is the world's second-largest semiconductor company and the world's largest memory chip business. Along with its mobile division, its chip business roughly makes up half its operating profits.

China has designated new IT technologies one of its "strategic industries" that it will home-produce by 2025, with semiconductor technology a core part. The country's Tsinghua Unigroup is attempting to buy US and South Korean chip firms. Headhunters from China are also hiring engineers from Korean tech conglomerates Samsung, LG, and SK Hynix, with semiconductor and display experts as one of their key targets.

The role of the semiconductor division is more important than ever for Samsung in the upcoming third quarter, as its mobile division is facing profit decline because of the global recall of the Galaxy Note 7.

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