South Korea to formalize division within intellectual property agency dedicated to combating technology leaks

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Feb. 27, 2024 9:10PM GMT+9

South Korea is advancing its efforts to safeguard critical national technologies. Three years after its creation, the division within the intellectual property agency dedicated to combating technology theft has been elevated to a regulatory division.

In a Tuesday announcement, the Korean Intellectual Property Office revealed that the Technology & Design Special Judicial Police, operating under the Intellectual Property Protection & International Cooperation Bureau, has been officially designated as a regulatory division. This development follows approval from the Ministry of Interior and Safety.

The Interior Department evaluates newly established organizations that are created under the revision of the decree associated with administrative agencies. The assessment is conducted three years after its original inception. This assessment can lead to one of three outcomes: extending the evaluation period, dissolving the organization, or officially recognizing it as a regulatory entity.

The special police division was established in July 2021, born out of an expansion of the existing police team dedicated to preventing the leakage of South Korea’s vital technologies and probing into crimes related to patent infringement and trade secret theft. The agency reports that from 2019 to 2023, this specialized unit prosecuted 326 cases involving trade secrets.

Following its formal establishment, the agency is set to intensify its crackdown on individuals involved in technology theft and the illicit transfer of technologies abroad, in line with the updated law governing the responsibilities of judicial police officers, revised last January.

“[Before the revision of the law], the judicial police was authorized to investigate actions related to the acquisition, utilization, and dissemination of trade secrets to unauthorized third parties,” stated an official from the Technology & Design Special Judicial Police. With the recent changes, the official explained that the division is empowered to probe into incidents where trade secrets are disclosed outside approved premises without authorization or where individuals retain trade secrets despite the owner's demand for their deletion or return.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

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.