New programs are designed to prevent retired technicians from being poached

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People attend a semiconductor exhibition in Shanghai, China, in March last year. [YONHAP/REUTERS]

Special programs are introduced to recruit retired technology and science experts to prevent technology leakage and competing countries poaching it.

News that Jang Won-ki, former president of Samsung Electronics’ LCD division, has accepted a position as vice chairman at Chinese semiconductor company Beijing Eswin Computing Technology caused quite a stir in 2020. Countries like China are notorious for offering higher wages to high-level employees and forcing them to reveal the technological secrets of Korean companies.

Jang eventually turned down the job, but he’s not the only professional approached by other countries.

“The United States needs 300,000 additional semiconductor workers and China 250,000, and they are competing for talent,” said Ahn Ki-hyun, executive director of the Korea Semiconductor Industry Association. “China tends to offer high salaries to key workers in Korea’s semiconductor and other key industries, and eventually hires them.”

According to the Korea Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) and the National Intelligence Service, there have been 121 cases of technology outflow over the past five years, resulting in 20 trillion won ($16.7 billion) in damages.

Retirees are one of the biggest targets as they have the knowledge and are usually looking for work.

In order not to lose key talent to countries abroad, the Government Policy Coordination Office announced on Jan. 20 that it will compile a database of people in key industries who should be blocked from taking new jobs abroad.

The government launched a special employment program last month aimed at providing retired executives and senior staff with positions as patent examiners at KIPO.

Cyber ​​security, space, quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence, hydrogen, biotechnology, advanced robot manufacturing, 5G and 6G, secondary batteries, and semiconductors and chips are the 10 areas that are considered key technologies and receive special job offers.

KIPO announced that it intends to employ a total of 1,000 to 2,000 people by 2027. The employment contracts have a term of five years and can be extended up to three times.

Every year, about 300 people retire from government research centers and 1,500 from the semiconductor industry.

The addition of experts is also intended to increase the efficiency of patent examinations.

“There are 935 patent examiners, each examining 250 to 300 patents per year,” a KIPO spokesman said. “That’s double to nearly quadruple the workload in countries like the United States and China.”

As of 2020, a patent examiner was responsible for evaluating 74 patents per year in the United States and 109 in China.

“Countries around the world are competing to become the leading nation in technology and are making every effort to attract key personnel,” said Hong Jang-won, chairman of the Korea Patent Attorney Association. “Korea should also act quickly if it doesn’t want to lose competitiveness in key areas like semiconductors.”

BY KIM BANG HYUN [[email protected]]

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