China poaching South Korean battery experts

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Beijing tapping neighbor’s know-how to fuel e-vehicle revolution. (The Korea Herald/ANN)

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) – China’s electric-vehicle industry is aggressively poaching experts from South Korea, one of the leading nations in developing and producing electric-vehicle batteries, according to various sources.

Chinese automakers have been luring experts from South Korean battery firms, including Samsung SDI, LG Chem and SK Innovation, with high salaries and compensation. They are offering jobs both in open and private recruitment processes.

“A recruiting firm with knowledge of the Korean battery industry is making contact with Korean engineers for Chinese companies. Around 30 to 40 percent of the key battery experts in Korea may be subject to the recruitment,” a Korean news media report quoted a source as saying.

China, the world’s largest electric vehicle market, is boosting its electric car and battery industry with major government incentives. They have the goal of selling 7 million electric cars by 2025, more than 10 times last year’s sales.

China’s biggest EV firm, BYD, recently advertised for South Korean battery experts who can work in Shenzhen, China. The firm said it would offer incentive bonuses, year-end bonuses, subsidies for car purchases and accommodations.

Since last year, BYD has continued to hire Korean experts and recently appointed a Korean to head the firm’s research center.

Another Chinese automaker, Great Wall Motors, set up a research center in South Korea this year, more aggressively poaching research and development personnel from Korean battery firms.

Great Wall Motors has the largest market share in sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks in China. It will reportedly hire around 20 Korean researchers this year and up to 70 next year. A local battery expert who had turned down the job offer was quoted as saying, “The current EV battery market is more competitive than ever in terms of manpower and technology. Great Wall Motors appears to have its base here to directly poach Korean experts otherwise it would be more difficult to persuade them.”

Beijing has called for Chinese firms to double electric vehicle battery capacity by 2020 and encouraged them to invest in factories overseas. With carmakers investing more heavily in electric vehicles, Goldman Sachs estimates the lithium-ion battery market will be worth $40 billion by 2025 and dominated by China.

China’s fastest growing battery maker, CATL, makes no secret of the country’s ambitions. “It will not be easy to surpass Japanese and South Korean companies,” its marketing director Neill Yang told the Financial Times.

“But we think over the next 10 years, there may only be 10 lithium battery producers left, with the top three taking 60 percent of the market.”

Lee Ho-geun, professor of automotive engineering at Daeduk University, said: “It is natural for China to try to lure Korean battery experts as the nation is way behind Korea in manufacturing batteries although it is at the front of securing natural resources for batteries. The Korean government should take this issue seriously and take action to protect its key industry,”

By Shin Ji-hye