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[Editorial] Guarding against theft

It is shocking that the state-of-the-art display technology of Samsung Mobile Display and LG Display has been leaked abroad, probably to some of their foreign rivals.

According to prosecutors, circumstantial evidence suggests that circuit diagrams of the two companies’ active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, or Amoled, display technology have been leaked to their rivals in China and Taiwan, including the BOE Technology Group in China, and AU Optronics Corp. in Taiwan.

Prosecutors say the suspected leaks could cost the nation as well as the two Korean companies up to 30 trillion won. The global Amoled technology market is estimated at 90 trillion won, with Samsung Mobile Display and LG Display accounting for a combined 57 percent of global demand.

Prosecutors have indicted six officials from Orbotech Korea, the Korean subsidiary of Orbotech Ltd., an Israeli company specializing in automated optical inspection equipment, on charges of technology theft.

According to prosecutors, these officials did not have much difficulty stealing the display technology. They assembled circuit diagrams using photos of the circuits taken by their optical inspection equipment. They loaded the photos to their USB drives in secret and hid the storage devices on the soles of their shoes or inside of their belts to take them out of the office without being detected by Samsung or LG security officers.

They sent the assembled circuit diagrams to the company headquarters in Israel and its subsidiaries in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Prosecutors say Orbotech officials in China and Taiwan sought to win inspection contracts from display panel manufacturers there using the circuit diagrams as bait.

What worries us is that the leaked circuit diagrams could enable foreign rivals of Samsung and LG to master the Amoled technology in a short period of time. If they start to churn out duplicate products, the industry landscape could change.

Cases similar to this could occur in the future as technologies increasingly become the ultimate weapon for success.

Technology theft should be met with stern punishment as it could deal a blow to the national economy as well as the affected companies.

To prevent the recurrence of technology theft, prosecutors need to punish those involved sternly. They also need to step up the crackdown on industrial espionage.

Domestic companies, for their part, must strengthen their security system to prevent their painstakingly developed technologies from falling into the wrong hands.
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