SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Kia Motors, South Korea's second-largest automaker, said Saturday it plans to beef up security in response to an alleged leak of production technology to China.
"Kia Motors Corp. views any threats to its brand and technology as a very serious matter,'' the company said in a statement.
"The company is planning to expand the depth of security solutions in all divisions of the company and strengthen its employee security education program,'' Kia said.
Prosecutors said Thursday that they have indicted seven current and former employees of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group over alleged technology leaks to Chinese automakers.
The group consists of Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's largest automaker, and its affiliate Kia.
Together they form the world's sixth-largest automotive group and aspire to become the fifth biggest by 2010. Kia has one factory in China and is building another.
Prosecutors said in a statement that five former Hyundai-Kia employees working at an auto-consulting firm in Seoul last year allegedly obtained core technology for the manufacture of a sport utility vehicle and a new car, code named "HM,'' from two current Hyundai-Kia employees.
The five allegedly leaked the technology to a Chinese carmaker in return for 230 million won (US$248,000; euro184,000), prosecutors said. They also allegedly tried to leak technology to another Chinese automaker, according to prosecutors.
All seven were charged with violating laws that protect business secrets and guard against unfair competition, the prosecutors said. Six of them were also charged with breach of trust.
If found guilty, the accused potentially face up to 10 years in prison.Prosecutors said they launched the investigation in April after a tip-off from South Korea's National Intelligence Service.-AP