South Korea’s Stealing United States Military Technology?

Foreign Policy just put out an interesting article that might sour recent news that South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) was nearing a deal by which it would purchase F-35s from Lockheed Martin.  The article, which primarily deals with the suspicion that the South Koreans may be stealing U.S. military secrets, had this to say about the F-35 program:

“Right now, the dialogue between the two countries is focused heavily on the potential sale of the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the South Koreans. American officials are putting into place a strict security agreement to ensure that nothing is shared, either with the wrong people, or for use by a buyer of a Korean-made copycat for Korea’s own competitive purposes. The South Koreans are interested in the F-35, but their interest comes at the same time as South Korea’s bid to build its own stealth jet, raising bureaucratic eyebrows in the United States. It could be the equivalent of South Korea taking a fighter jet on a test drive, as it were, flying it around the corner to kick its tires, only then to return it to the dealership and say it’s not interested, but first looking under the hood and taking some pictures. “

This must be somewhat alarming news for the US military, which has still yet to hand over wartime operational military control of South Korean forces to the South Koreans themselves.  In that debacle, still unsolved, the U.S. military has suggested that the South Koreans are intentionally delaying the transfer in order to reap the benefits of the U.S. presence on the peninsula.

The article goes on to suggest that the theft of U.S. military secrets may eventually allow the defense industry in South Korea to grow quite large, and that the industry has also thus far benefited from the theft of other states’ secrets.  From the article:

“South Korea put itself on the map late last year when Norway made overtures toward South Korea to build a conventional submarine. Much of the technology upon which such a platform is based comes from the Germans. But the sub is an example of Korean innovation. Unlike the Japanese, who are seen in many ways as imitators, the Koreans are themselves more inventive, taking what they glean from other exporters and improving upon it.”

The article is definitely worth a read, so be sure to check it out.  The original article from Foreign Affairs can be found at: Is South Korea Stealing U.S. Military Secrets?

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Sean Hayes may be contacted at:

Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team and Entertainment, Media and New Tech Law Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.

He assists clients in their contentious, non-contentious and business developments needs in Korea and China. 

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