South Korea’s aerospace researchers face data leak investigation

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Oct. 31, 2023 8:40PM GMT+9

South Korea’s science ministry is investigating a group of experts at the national aerospace research institution over leaked industrial technologies.

According to the Ministry of Science and ICT on Tuesday, the ministry’s audit and inspection division is currently investigating a possible data leak out of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). The MSIT did not disclose details of the investigation, such as the exact number of individuals currently under surveillance or the type or amount of data believed to have been mishandled. However, the government stated that the ministry has filed a petition with federal prosecutors in order that they might further investigate four researchers of particular interest in the possible breach.

The Readable requested a comment from both the MSIT and the Daejeon District Prosecutor’s Office, which now heads the case, on the exact nature of the researchers’ misconduct. However, representatives from both offices stated that no details of that kind can be disclosed at this time because the investigation is still ongoing.

According to local news outlets, the government is focusing on several experts at KARI who, upon receiving an internal report announcing the possibility of a data breach, expressed a desire to leave their jobs and seek work in the private sector. The news outlets further explained that these experts are currently under suspicion of removing and attaching data storage devices, such as hard disk drives, to KARI computers and accessing technology documents excessively over a suspicious timeframe.

In May of this year, under the supervision of KARI, South Korea launched its first commercial-grade satellite into orbit. South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, congratulated all involved on the success of the lift-off, saying that the launch placed South Korea among seven other countries with the technological know-how and ability to send a domestically built satellite into orbit abord a domestically built rocket, the Nuri.

The Readable sought confirmation of the likelihood that a technology and data leak had occurred out of KARI, but a spokesperson from the institute replied that nothing definitive can be said at this time, as the case is still under government investigation.

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.