Korea's tech industries are increasingly becoming the target of technology and intellectual property theft that has been growing in sophistication and harmfulness.

The targeted industries include semiconductors, large batteries and cars, which are all pillars of Korea's economy and therefore the leak of related trade secrets is considered a threat to the national interest.

With industrial espionage, competitors' poaching of skilled employees, cyberattacks and other forms of theft being rampant, the world has been introducing stricter rules to ban theft of competitors' technologies across borders.

Tech industries at the same time are growing ever more competitive, as countries push for self-sufficiency amid the pandemic and also de-globalization in the context of the U.S.-China trade war.

Against this backdrop, overseas competitors approach Korean conglomerates' key scientists and engineers and attempt to lure them to higher-paid jobs at firms that seemingly have no link to their professions.


This articles suggest that some rules were introduced by various countries to ban theft of technology across borders, I am wondering if there are international rules or mechanisms to prevent the theft of technology or if those rules are implemented at a national level. If it's implemented at a national level, how do the countries prevent cross-border technology theft?

  • 3
    “competitors' poaching of skilled employees” why is this considered a “form of theft”, let alone bad? If you dont want the employee to leave, pay them more without them asking.
    – user16741
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 2:31

2 Answers 2


There is a whole slew of WTO rules on intellectual property.

The TRIPS agreement is the basis for recognising and sharing intellectual property. You can read a brief summary of the agreement.

Of particular interest might be "Enforcement":

The Agreement says governments have to ensure that intellectual property rights can be enforced to prevent or deter violations. The procedures must be fair and equitable, and not unnecessarily complicated or costly. They must not entail unreasonable time-limits or unwarranted delays. People involved must be able to ask a court to review an administrative decision or to appeal a lower court’s ruling.

The TRIPS agreement also requires countries to engage with the WIPO. As with other multilateral trade agreements, governments enter into these deal freely to their mutual benefit.

For some technology, particularly military, the protection is simple secrecy. And countries protect against theft by having levels of security clearance, official secrets, encryption, and so on.

But for most inventions, there is more use in an internationally recognised patent, than in trying to obfuscate a mechanism.

  • I'd say that for most technology in general, protection of most prized intellectual property (i.e. stuff that's difficult to reverse-engineer to a reliable degree, like flavor combinations) comes from secrecy, not patenting. Anything that's (relatively) easy to reverse engineer is better to be protected by a patent, since the invention can be traced and usage rights are easier to enforce Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 11:37

The concept of sovereignty prevents truly global rules.

Nations are free to set their patent laws, or for that matter no patent law at all. You see subtle or not so subtle differences in copyright and intellectual property laws all over the world. Many nations (even ones which otherwise accept licensing laws) reserve the rights to order compulsory licensing in an emergency, and a license is what they define as one.

Global trade organizations try to set global standards.

For instance, there are the WTO and TRIPS. There is ACTA. Failure to abide by these rules might lead to a nation becoming outcast from the international community.

Nations which are persistent offenders are either powerful, and get away with it, or they face the consequences. The "international community" is a rather fuzzy term for those nations which generally abide by the same rules and trade with each other. There is no clear rule on what a nation can get away with before other nations stop trusting, but IP piracy is high on the list.

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