South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol recently declared the chip manufacturing industry to be in an “all-out war,” and the latest developments certainly support that statement. Prosecutors in the Suwon District have indicted a former Samsung executive for allegedly stealing semiconductor plant blueprints and technology from the leading chipmaker, BusinessKorea reports. They didn’t name the 65-year-old defendant, who also previously served as vice president of another Korean chipmaker SK Hynix, but claimed he stole the information between 2018 and 2019. The leak reportedly cost Samsung about $230 million.
The defendant allegedly planned to build a semiconductor in Xi’an, China, less than a mile from an existing Samsung plant. He hired 200 employees from SK Hynix and Samsung to obtain their trade secrets while also teaming up with an unnamed Taiwanese electronics manufacturing company that pledged $6.2 billion to build the new semiconductor plant — the partnership fell through. However, the defendant was able to secure about $358 million from Chinese investors, which he used to create prototypes in a Chengdu, China-based plant. The plant was reportedly also built using stolen Samsung information, according to prosecutors.
“It’s so serious that it’s difficult to compare it in terms of the scale of the crime and the degree of damage with previous individual semiconductor technology leakage cases,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. “It’s a grave crime that could deal a heavy blow to our economic security by shaking the foundation of the domestic chip industry at a time of intensifying competition in chip manufacturing.” Six co-conspirators, including one Samsung sub-contractor, were indicted alongside the lead defendant. These charges follow continued efforts from China to acquire South Korea’s technologies across a range of industries and Korea creating stricter punishments for related offenses.