EV batteries industry in Korea warned by the Chinese rivalry

South Korea’s electric vehicle battery industry has come under alert to defend their work force as Chinese rivals heavily court Korean engineers and researchers as competition in the secondary battery heads up amid widening applications in the fourth industrial age.

China’s CATL, the world’s largest automotive battery maker, reportedly has dangled three-fold higher salaries to engineers of Korea’s top EV battery makers, according to sources on Thursday.

“I heard they are offering 300 million won ($256,000) in annual salary to senior employees who head a department here. The price is all up to the seller. They have recruited head hunters to approach them individually,” said a Korean company official. Department heads at Korea’s major EV battery makers are usually paid 100 million won in annual salaries.

CATL is the largest player in the global EV battery market. According to SNE Research, CATL accounted for 25.4 percent in the global market in the January-May period this year. The combined market share of Korea’s top three rivals (LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation) was 15.8 percent.

CATL recently invested heavily in its German factory and needs more heads particularly from Korea.

China has become a leader in EV by stealing work force since 10 years ago. But its share mostly owes to demand at home and needs Korean talents to go global. ATL, China’s small battery maker, lured away talents by offering 10-fold higher salaries in early stage. BYD, a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, officially launched a massive recruitment plan for Korean engineers in 2017. A senior executive of Samsung SDI was scouted to head Apple`s battery development division late last year.

The chip sector is another area Koreans are heavily chased by China under the government-sponsored “Made in 2025” campaign to make China a powerhouse in high tech and components.