Lawmakers target shadowy brokers to curb technology theft

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Jul. 18, 2023 8:00PM GMT+9

South Korean lawmakers are taking a step toward protecting the nation’s confidential military information by proposing legislative changes that could impose penalties for technology theft brokers.

A group of South Korean lawmakers proposed changes in the Defense Technology Security Act on July 17. According to lawmaker Ahn Gyu-back on Tuesday, the proposal aims to tighten the rules for brokers’ activities, such as luring others to leak defense secrets or introducing and arranging meetings for data sellers and buyers. These middlemen could evade punishment under the current law which focuses on regulating those who steal, abuse, or expose military technology by using illegal methods.

South Korea has been protecting crucial technology related to national security such as razor sensors and rocket propulsion under the nation’s defense security law. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) stated early this year that they have identified 93 cases of industrial technology leakages in the past five years. One third of the stolen information was classified as national core technology.

The revised law also targets individuals who steal confidential information with the knowledge that it could be used in foreign countries. The current legislation states that those who steal classified technology for the purpose or intention of using it aboard could be punished. In addition, the proposal introduced rules that could protect experts in the defense industry at a national level.

The proposal comes as the importance of protecting military technology heightens. South Korea is seeing an exponential growth in its defense industry. According to the Ministry of National Defense last year, the export orders for the defense industry reached the highest level on record with 17 billion dollars. This was a huge leap from the 7.25 billion recorded the year before.

This is also an attempt to prevent military technology leakages which have been carried out by experts who have profound knowledge of internal operations. According to local news outlets in 2020, a former employee of the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) allegedly leaked almost 680,000 cases of confidential research information after leaving the post. The Readable reached out to ADD and made a request for comment on the details of the incident but did not receive immediate response.

The cover image of this article was designed by Sangseon Kim.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.