The South Korean government will restrict the export of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) production equipment. It is planning to designate OLED equipment as “national core technology” and make government approval compulsory for exportation. This is a follow-up measure to prevent any recurrence of technology leaks through equipment companies after officials of Toptec Co., which is a Samsung Electronics parts supplier, were accused of selling Samsung’s latest OLED display technology to China’s BOE Technology Group.
According to industry sources on Dec. 30, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) recently held a meeting on national core technology designation, change and cancellation with display equipment firms and discussed designating OLED equipment as national core technology. Currently, only display panel design, process, manufacturing and drive are included as national core technology. Therefore, technology leaks through equipment companies cannot be prevented.
When OLED equipment is designated as national core technology, it is required to receive approval from the government to export technologies and pursue merger and acquisition (M&A) of shares in foreign companies.
MOTIE will also create and control the chemical sector as the national core technology as there was controversy over technology leaks after China’s Doublestar Co. took over a stake in Kumho Tire Co. A MOTIE official said, “We will create the chemical sector and additionally designate about 10 more technologies in other sectors as the national core technology in order to make technology leaks to China impossible.”
With the government’s latest decision, the display equipment industry is concerned about exports. An official from the industry said, “China has just started investing in OLED. When a government approval is required for every exportation of equipment, it is practically the imposition of an export ban.”