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Overview of Export Control Regime on Strategic Materials

What Are Strategic Materials?

Strategic materials refer to weapons including weapons of mass destruction (WMD), missiles, and conventional weapons, and dual-use goods, technologies, and software essentially used for developing and manufacturing weapons.

Industrial - Shampoo, Tennis Racket, Instant Coffee /
	Strategic Materials - Triethanolamine, Carbon Fiber, Lyophilizer /
	Military - Chemical Weapon, Missile Fuselage, Biological Weapon

Composition of Strategic Materials

Strategic materials include not only weapons but also items commonly used in people’s daily lives and industrial sites. They are used in a wide range of areas including materials, chemical & biological weapons, machines, electricity & electronics, aerospace applications, ocean related applications, and nuclear energy.

Example of Strategic Materials - Pump, Numerically Controlled lathe, Valve, Carbon Fiber, Thermal Imaging Camera, dry etching equipment, Fermenter, 3D Scanner

International Society’s Control of Strategic Materials

International society places a certain level of restrictions on trade and transfer of strategic materials so as to prevent strategic materials from being delivered to countries with WMD or to terrorist groups. Multilateral international export control regimes and international treaties designed to control the strategic materials have been cooperatively operated in four fields including nuclear weapons, CBW (chemical and biological weapons), missiles, and conventional weapons. Korea joins all regimes and treaties.

International Export Control Regime

Nuclear weapon - Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG), nuclear energy materials-related control 46 members / CBW - Australia Group (AG), CBW-related control 46 members / Missile - Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), missile-related control 34 members  / Conventional Weapon - Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), conventional weapons, and dual-use-related control 40 members

Korea’s Control of Strategic Materials

Several government organizations are involved in managing strategic materials and they are systematically connected via a consultative body of export control and an online system. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE), Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST), Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), and Ministry of Unification (MOU) are in charge of export approval. Korea Customs Service (KCS) is in charge of customs and follow-up control, the Intelligence and Investigation Agency is in charge of investigation and monitoring for illegal exports, and the Ministry of Foreign affairs and Trade (MOFAT) is in charge of international cooperation.

Organizations Responsible for Approval of Strategic Materials Export

MKE - 1) Relevant Law : Foreign Trade Act, Defense Acquisition Program Act
	2) Control Item : Industrial Goods, General Defense Articles / DAPA - 1) Relevant Law : Foreign Trade Act, Defense Acquisition Program Act 2) Control Item : Main Defense Articles / MOEST - 1) Relevant Law : Foreign Trade Act, Atomic Energy Act 2) Control Item : Goods Exclusive For Atomic Energy / MOU - 1) Relevant Law : Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act 2) Control Item : Exchange Goods of Inter-Korea Trade
Other tasks are performed based on close cooperation among the customs office, intelligence & investigation agency, and foreign relations agency.

Strategic Technology Transfer and Control

What is Strategic Technology?

Strategic technology refers to detailed information required for developing, producing, and using strategic materials. Transfer of this technology is controlled under multilateral export control regimes for national security and antiterrorism.

In What Forms Does Strategic Technology Exist?

Strategic technology exists in the tangible forms of documents, disks, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and USBs, where the technology is recorded. In addition, the technology can exist in the intangible form of ideas (in human memory) and knowhow.

Tangible Form, Intangible Form
Tangible Form Intangible Form
- Documents
- Disk, CD-ROM, DVD, USB, etc
- Know-How
- Knowledge (in human memory)

How to Transfer Technology

The method of technology transfer is classified into tangible transfer and intangible transfer. In the case of tangible transfer, technology in a tangible form is directly supplied to the other side or delivered by post or with strategic materials by plane or ship. In the case of intangible transfer, technology in tangible and intangible forms is transferred via an electronic medium (internet, intranet, e-mail, fax, telephone) or non-electronic medium (orally, manually).

Tangible Form, Intangible Form
Tangible transfer Technology in a tangible form is directly supplied to the other side or delivered by post or with strategic materials by plane or ship.
Intangible transfer Technology in a tangible or intangible form is transferred via electronic medium (internet, intranet, e-mail, fax, telephone) or non-electronic medium (orally, manually).

Types of Technologies Controlled Internationally

Tangible Form, Intangible Form
Item Controlled Technology
Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) Technology related to conventional weapons or dual-use goods
Australia Group (AG) Technology related to chemical materials, probionts, or dual-use manufacturing facility and equipment
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Technology related to goods exclusive for atomic energy and dual-use goods
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Technology related to related to missiles and dual-use goods

Non-Controlled Technologies

  • Minimum technology required to install, operate, maintain, and repair articles and goods allowed to be exported
  • Information open to the public
  • Information on basic science research
  • Minimum information necessary for application of a patent

Main Party to Control Technology Transfer

Check Strategic Technology

First, it is necessary to check whether or not a technology to be handled belongs to the category of strategic technology. The Strategic Trade Information System (www.yestrade.go.kr) and Korea Strategic Trade Institute (KOSTI) can be utilized to make a judgement and the result should be notified within 15 days.

Application Method and Procedure

Strategic trade information system - Log-in by authentication certificate → Application for judgement - Application document : 
	1. Application form for preliminary judgement,
	2. Description of technology characteristics,
	3. Technology specification, etc → Review and judgement by experts : Implemented by KOSTI, Within 15 days → Print-out of judgement result : Strategic trade information system, Two-year term of validity / All matters are to be handled within 15 days after the date of application., Judgement is free of charge.

Request for Approval of Export (Transfer)

It is required to gain approval in advance when transferring to a foreigner or foreign country a relevant technology found to belong to the category of strategic technology. Additionally, even if the relevant technology does not belong to the category of strategic technology, it is necessary to request approval when the end use and end user are thought to be unclear.

Request for Export Approval

Restriction on Illegal Transfer

When strategic technology is transforred illegally, the party involved in the illegal transfer is liable to 7 or 5 years’ imprisonment with fines 5 or 3 times as much as the trading cost. Additionally, the party, being on the Blacklist, is banned from any international exchanges including international academic activities.

  • 7 or 5 years’ imprisonment with fines 5 or 3 times as much as the trading cost
  • Ban on exporting and importing strategic materials within 3 years
  • Put on the Blacklist (http://www.yestrade.go.kr/)

Cases of Illegal Transfer and Punishment

  • A former professor from Tennessee University was found guilty of illegal transfer of strategic technology (Case in the US)

    (Outline) John Reece Roth, a former professor from Tennessee University, illegally transferred total technology data to the Chinese in 2005 and 2006.

    (Details) Roth, renowned for developing a plasma actuator, hired a Chinese graduate student of Xin Dai as a research assistant and leaked technology data when he visited to China for a lecture. As a result, he was sentenced to 48 months’ imprisonment and put on 2-year probation in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.

    * Source : The January issue of the Export Practitioner (2011)
  • An American was given a jail sentence for leaking stealth technology to China (Case in the US)

    (Outline) Noshir Gowadia, an Indian-American, visited China six times in secret from 2003 to 2005 to illegally transfer national security secrets, information on the B-2 Stealth Bomber.

    (Details) When working for Northrop Grumman between 1969 and 1986, Gowadia was sentenced to 32 years’ imprisonment on a charge of delivering to a Chinese company the technology for developing the exhaust nozzle of the propulsion system in the B-2 Stealth Bomber

    * Source : Press release by the US Department of State (January, 25th)
  • Attempt to reveal technology to manufacture equipment for microorganism fermentation (Case in Korea)

    (Outline) The criminals stole technology to manufacture equipment for microorganism fermentation and established a company. During a downturn in their business, they were caught selling technology data including design drawings to a company, J, in China.

    (Details) When working at K, the manufacturer of microorganism fermentation equipment designated as strategic materials and technology, L and three other persons conspired with each other to steal manufacturing technology of the microorganism fermentation equipment and sales information and then build their own company. After retirement, they established the company and manufactured and sold the fermentation equipment by using the design drawings they stole. However, they faced difficulties in the business and were caught selling the design drawings and other technology data to the Chinese company J.

    * Source : Technology leakage case from National Industrial Security Center

Importance of Strategic Technology Control via Scenarios

(Case 1) Simple Movement of Equipment to a Foreign Country and Technology Coordination

A domestic research institute (A) plans to launch its home-grown earth observation satellite after moving it to a country (K). With regards to the plan, the institute (A) has two technological challenges. First, the institute members should go on a business trip to the country (K) to discuss issues related to launching the satellite with the locals. Second, they should make efforts to prevent the satellite–related technology transferred from Korea or a third country from being illegally exported to the country (K). At this time, what matters should be considered regarding the export control?

  • (Satellite Manufacturing Process) The technologies to manufacture the satellite are largely composed of the bus (a satellite structure), load (optical camera), power system, attitude control system, and data transmission system. The domestic research institute (A) in Korea received technical support from a country (B) for manufacturing the satellite.
    • Control about Movement to K
      As some technologies applied for manufacturing the satellite belong to the strategic technology, the movement is to cross the border and therefore requires export approval, despite that it seems to be only simple movement of the satellite for launch.
    • Control about Technology Discussion for Launch
      Additionally, the technology discussion related to the satellite launch is highly likely to cause technology transfer to a country where the satellite is moved. Thus, it is necessary to obtain export approval from a relevant agency prior to the discussion.
    • Control for Prevention of Illegal Export
      The method of control can vary according to the characteristics of the given technology. However, in the case of a satellite, it would be better to build a system to control the following processes: △ the process of transporting the satellite to a launching site in order to interface the satellite with the launcher of the country (K); △ the process of interfacing with the launcher of the country (K); and △ the process of launching the satellite through the launcher of the country (K). In addition, with respect to the technology discussion, it is important to prepare a results report about protection of the strategic technology and separately manage the report.

(Case 2) Presentation by a Researcher in an Academic Conference

A university professor (乙) plans to go abroad to present his research results on a novel material at an international academic conference held in a country (B). The research topic is about the characteristics of a novel material classified as strategic technology. Also, the professor (乙) plans to have discussions on the research topic with a researcher from a country (C). In this case, what matters should be considered with regard to the export control?

  • Check of the Nature of Academic Paper
    • Check of the Nature of Academic Paper
      When presenting the research outcome at an academic conference, it is excluded from the technology export control as it is found to belong to the category of open information. In addition, the research is a part of a basic research, it is highly likely to be excluded from the technology export control. In particular, if the conference is open to the public and has an academic purpose, the presentation of the paper does not require export approval. However, export approval is required when there is restrictions on the participants of the academic conference and the research on the same material is directly related to strategic technology.
    • Prior-Check of Conversation
      In this case, it is necessary to check whether the country (C) is a member country of the International Export Control Regime and the identity of the other party of the country; whether the conversation is likely to be used for military purposes or WMD purposes; whether it is likely to be transferred to a third country via the other party.

(Case 3) International Joint Research and Development

A domestic research institute (C) has decided to conduct a joint research for one year with experts from a country (A) for developing a next-generation rocket booster. A researcher (甲) who participates the joint research is known as an expert in the propulsion system. Should the researcher (甲) obtain export approval from the government about content and technology of the joint research?

  • Check of Relations with Technological Outcomes Expected from the Joint Research

    Although the rocket booster is a commercial rocket designed to launch a practical satellite, it is classified as dual-use goods, thus being subject to influence by MTCR, missile technology control regime. Accordingly, it is necessary to precheck the joint research based on the following, and if there seems to be something problematic with the research, appropriate export control should be exerted.

    • 1. What relations do the content and outcome of the joint research with the regulations of MTCR?
    • 2. Have the content and outcome of the joint research already been used by other countries?
    • 3. Is any new technology or product developed by the joint research?
    • 4. Does the outcome result from the process of joint research against international regulations?
    • 5. Is the rocket booster utilizing joint research used only for the launch of the commercial satellite?

Example of Research Fields Closely Related to Strategic Materials

(Source : Guidelines of Security Trade Control for Japanese Researchers)

Research Field Closely Related to WMD

The field of research is actually studied by universities. The fields having relatively close relations with the WMD include those in atomic energy, chemistry, biology, and aerospace. Of course, no university is involved in research directly related to WMD. However, some universities conduct research involving the handling of tools and materials that could be parts or manufacturing equipment of WMD or conduct research on technology related to the design, manufacture, and use of WMD.

Atomic Energy

  • Examples of Main Research Theme
    • 【Example 1】 Research on skimming 235U’s excited state with dye laser beam
      Research Field : (Item) Nuclear fuel cycle and materials (Specialized in) Isotope separation, isotope application, uranium enrichment
      Research Theme: Examine multiple dye laser beams, make excited state with selected 235U out of the U(uranium) isotopes, then separate them photoelectrically. Enrich 235U by recovering generated ions to an electrode.
      Convertibility: It could be used for designing uranium enrichment equipment to generate highly enriched uranium, which is a source of nuclear weapons.
    • 【Example 2】 Research on dry reprocessing based on metallic electrolysis with spent metallic fuel
      Research Field : (Item) Nuclear fuel cycle and materials (Specialized in) Fuel reprocessing
      Research Theme: Extract U with the spent metallic fuel being fixed as the anode and separate and recover Pu after the U is recovered.
      Convertibility: It is possible to be used for designing equipment to separate and recover plutonium and uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.
    • 【Example 3】 Research on nuclear characteristics of hafnium
      Research Field : (Item) Nuclear fission engineering (Specialized in) nuclear data, criticality safety
      Research Theme: Study neutron absorption characteristics of hafnium, and changes in formation by neutron absorption.
      Convertibility: It could be used for controlling the operation of nuclear reactors to manufacture nuclear fuel materials for use in nuclear weapons.
  • Examples of International Trade Demanding Caution
    • Research on skimming 235U’s excited state with dye laser beam
      When the research is jointly conducted by international parties or an overseas manufacturer is entrusted with the production of tools, the joint research team or the manufacturer of laser equipment is likely to be given design specifications of the tools or enrichment-related data (technology related to separating device), which are subject to control.
    • Research on nuclear characteristics of hafnium
      When conducting research on a hafnium control rod suitable for nuclear reactor’s characteristics, it is possible to provide design information or samples to joint research institutes abroad or foreign agencies having nuclear reactor facilities in order to investigate the initial sample by utilizing an overseas nuclear reactor.
    • Research on developing a next-generation fuel
      When research on novel materials for the development of a next-generation nuclear reactor requires utilization of nuclear reactor facilities overseas for experimental research on the characteristics, the joint research institutes abroad, overseas manufacturers of materials or foreign agencies having nuclear reactor facilities are likely to be given design information on fuel materials or samples.


  • Example of Main Research Theme
    • 【Example 1】 Research on a method of manufacturing carbon fiber reinforced carbon materials (C/C composites)
      Research Field : (Item) Structural mechanics and materials(Specialized in) High Temperature, heat-resistant materials
      Research Theme: Manufacture composites that reinforce inorganic and organic materials with a stiffener of carbon fiber and enhance the dynamic and functional characteristics.
      Convertibility: The carbon fiber reinforced carbon materials (C/C composites) with high-temperature and heat resistance, which are used in the nozzle part of a missile propulsion rocket motor, can dramatically improve the performance of the propulsion system.
    • 【Example 2】Research on design and trial production of an air vehicle by using carbon fiber reinforced resin composites
      Research Field : (Item) Structural mechanics and materials(Specialized in) Composites dynamics
      Research Theme: Design and trial-produce structure of an air vehicle by using carbon fiber reinforced resin composites (CFRP) to pursue an ultra light-weight vehicle.
      Convertibility: As the air vehicle of the missile reduces the weight of the structure by using high-performance composites, it can allow extension of the flying range with increased fuel-carrying capacity or large-size loads such as a large warhead.
  • Examples of International Trade Demanding Caution
    • When conducting international joint research on composites or heat-resistant materials
      A joint research institute is likely to be given a sample (ex: a sample of carbon fiber reinforced carbon composites). Or it is likely to export materials that ae brought together when borrowing test facilities from abroad (ex: conduct a performance test of carbonaceous heat-resistant materials in a high-performing arc. blast box, etc)


The chemistry field has an extensive range of research topics including physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, chemistry & biotechnology related for vital function, polymer chemistry, and materials chemistry. Applied research in the chemistry is being conducted from a wide range of perspectives, thus making it difficult to give an example of a research system in the field.

In addition, specific chemicals, whose manufacturing methods are already known, are not directly taken as a research theme. Moreover, there is no case confirmed where research tools related to those chemicals were exchanged with foreign institutes. As described above, in universities’ research, based on the characteristics of research in the chemistry field, it is generally not easy to illustrate typical research themes that are believed to have a high possibility of being converted into chemical weapons-related research. However, it is necessary to pay attention to applied research based on chemical materials used for chemical weapons or research on generating chemical materials whose by-products can also be used for chemical weapons. When conducting such research, an approval pursuant to the Foreign Trade Act is required in the event that ① relevant data including the chemicals concerned are taken out to foreign countries; ② a new synthesis method that the chemicals concerned additionally produce is offered to another party of an international joint research, or ③ a researcher overseas tries taking out research tools (manufacturing device) owned by a university.


  • Example of Main Research Theme
    • 【Example 1】Research on anthrax bacteria
      Research Field : (Item) Bacteriology(Specialized in) Anthrax bacteria
      Research Theme: Conduct research on the pathogenicity of anthrax bacteria, targeting spores of anthrax bacteria, research on anthrax bacteria vaccine, and research on an anthrax diagnosis method.
      Convertibility: It is possible to convert results into a biological weapon by processing and spraying the pores of anthrax bacteria in a form that is easily aerosolized and attempting to cause pulmonary anthrax. In 2001, several items of mail were mixed with the spores of anthrax bacteria in the US. Out of 22 anthrax cases resulting from the incident, 11 cases were related to pulmonary anthrax (claiming 5 lives) and 11 cases related to cutaneous anthrax.
    • 【Example 2】Research on Botulinus toxin
      Research Field : (Item) Research on toxin(Specialized in) Botulinus toxin
      Research Theme: Conduct research on structure and function of botulinus toxin, research on prevention of botulinus toxin, research on development of prompt botulinus toxin-detection system, and research on application of botulinus toxin for medical treatment.
      Convertibility: It is possible to convert the results into a biological weapon. For instance, botulinus could be cultured and the toxin could be refined and mixed with beverages or food, leading to neurological signs and symptoms and even the death of persons who are vaccinated against the botulinus toxin. Botulinus toxin is highly toxic. In 1995, 20,000-ℓ botulinus toxins were discovered and discarded in Iraq. The Aum Shinrikyo Cult, which launched a gas attack against ordinary citizens in the Tokyo subway, is thought to have studied the botulinus toxin.
  • Examples of International Trade Demanding Caution

    When international research is conducted jointly, the relevant university involved in the research is expected to make exchanges with a foreign institute in the following cases: 1) when a virus sample, as an outcome of research, is exported, and 2) when a joint research institute is given relevant tools and equipment including a bioreactor (to incubate/ferment pathogens), a centrifuge (to enrich pathogens), and a lyophilizer (to power dry pathogens).

Research Field Closely Related to Conventional Weapons

  • Example of Main Research Theme
    • 【Example 1】Research on a high-resolution infrared imaging system
      Research Field : (Item) Precision engineering, information engineering(Specialized in) Photoelectric properties, image processing, and image recognition
      Research Theme: Conduct research on an image intensifier tube for high resolution far-red light by using gallium arsenide and research on imaging equipment or image recognition equipment using an image intensifier tube for high resolution far-red light.
      Convertibility: It could be used in conventional weapons such as night vision for nighttime battle.
    • 【Example 2】Research on a high-performance piezo-ceramic vibrator for underwater sound
      Research Field : (Item) Precision engineering(Specialized in) Sensor engineering, functional materials
      Research Theme: Conduct research on improving reversal threshold value of electric field required for polarization reversal of piezo-ceramic under hydrostatic pressure exceeding 10MPa (approx. 100 pressure) and preventing decline in piezoelectric constant and research on producing a piezo-ceramic vibrator with underwater sound composites, which is operable under the above condition.
      Convertibility: It could be used in conventional weapons such as sonar, mines, and torpedos.
  • Examples of International Trade Demanding Caution

    It is expected that universities will make exchanges with foreign institutes in various forms such as in international joint research, including the research themes mentioned above. In particular, in this field, many civilian tools and materials are likely to be subject to control, and therefore it is necessary to make a careful and proper judgement on whether an approval pursuant to the Foreign Trade Act is required from the perspective of strategic materials control.

담당자 : 최고관리자 수정일 : 2014년 05월21일 조회수 : 37