South Korea`s Military Exports on the Rise


KAWASAKI, Japan — Year-end estimates of the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) 2011 Defense Exports reflect an extremely prosperous year for the nation and its growing arms industry, doubling their sales from 2010 and showing few signs of slowdown despite a tough economic year in other sectors.

The ROK generated $2.4 billion (US dollars) in arms exports over the course of 2011, the bulk of which came from the sales of three Changbogo-class submarines ($1.1 billion) and sixteen KAI T-50 Golden Eagle trainer aircraft ($400 million) to Indonesia.

A successful 2011 has Seoul brimming with confidence, already targeting $3 billion in sales for 2012, which would put them on pace to smash previous estimates from 2010 that had tabbed an export industry of 4 billion dollars by 2020. Members of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) have altered their own expectations on the heels of their successful 2011 campaign, claiming revised goals of $5 billion dollars in exports by 2014 and $10 billion by 2017.

Though these 2012 goals are likely inflated by the glow of a prosperous 2011, it’s worth noting that South Korea is still emerging as a maker of high-end military systems and advanced military technologies.

While their military shipbuilding industry and general munitions industries have seen successes and increasing interest abroad, their aerospace and military technology systems industry are only beginning to pull their weight on the global security and defense stages.

As a nation continually advancing in defense technology due to their ‘war’ with North Korea, a public that views defense advances as a matter of national pride, and fiercely competitive companies, hungry to dominate global markets, it wouldn’t be far fetched to see Korea surging into the top ranks of world arms exporters at the dream-like pace they’re now expecting.

South Korea’s LIG NEX1 (An LG subsidiary) is certainly hoping to use 2011 as a springboard for future success. Below is a clip from their August visit to Indonesia:

The weapons systems shown throughout the above clip are what might be considered the “cream of the crop” of the company’s current product lineup. If LIG NEX1 is ready to sell these wares abroad, there are likely many countries that will be lining up to show interest. Samsung Thales, Hyundai, Hanwha, and other weapons-producing South Korean conglomerates are not likely resting on their laurels either.

While this author often takes South Korean braggadocio with a grain of salt and realizes that stumbles are likely on the way to Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration’s new goals, a government working hand and hand with corporations to fuel military advances, popular support for advanced arms creation, and other defense-hungry Asian nations to be won over as regional allies, $10 billion by 2020 isn’t something he’d want to bet against.

And you thought they were only good for M1 Garands

Craig Scanlan covers both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch. You can read more of Craig's work here.

Additional Reading:

South Korean Defense Industry Suffers First Major Defeat of 2012

South Korea loses to Italy in Fighter-Trainer Bid for Israel

South Korea continues to turn heads on the Global Arms Scene.
(Samsung Thales Girl Song Ji-Na from Kormarine Expo 2009



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