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South Korea Looks to Boost Arms Exports

    South Korea Looks to Boost Arms Exports
    Updated Nov 26, 2022
    Image credit: REUTERS via Al Jazeera

    Facts

    • In what he views as the nation's "future new growth engine,” South Korean Pres. Yoon Suk-yeol is aiming to strengthen the country's weapons industry by securing cutting-edge defense technologies and boosting weapons exports, he said at a defense meeting on Thursday.[1]
    • With its defense capabilities originally developed to curb potential North Korean threats, South Korea is now reportedly the world's eighth largest weapon seller. Yoon hopes to reach fourth place, after the US, Russia, and France.[2]
    • At Thursday's meeting, he also called for improved research and investment conditions, and asked that the industry structure itself to become more export-oriented. "With the intensifying competition for technological supremacy, we need to secure technological competitiveness to develop game-changing weapon systems for future wars," he said.[3]
    • Following the remarks, the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Energy, Lee Chang-yang, announced plans to invest $753B by 2027 to support public-private technology transfers and other R&D projects. Vice Defense Minister Shin Beom-chul also pledged that the military will take the lead in providing post-sale services to customers that purchase South Korean weapons.[4]
    • The announcements come just four months after South Korea secured its biggest-ever arms deal with Poland, including exports of tanks and howitzers to an estimated value of $15B.[5]
    • Yoon said South Korea is an attractive partner for international cooperation, and countries like Australia and Norway are interested in ramping up partnerships in the defense sector. He further stated that South Korea would maintain full military readiness while supporting its exports.[6]

    Spin

    Pro-establishment narrative

    It's a gold rush period for arms producers right now. As Europeans boost their defense spending to counter the Russian threat and replace weapons they’ve sent to Ukraine, South Korea has quietly become a favorite supplier of arms, ready to export its fully NATO-integrated weapons systems. The Koreans are definitely at the right time with the right technology.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    Defense exports shouldn't be viewed from a mere industrial or economic point of view. Unlike other exports, these commodities are deeply interlinked with human rights and international politics. South Korea may claim to consider this when exporting weapons, but its current list of recipients — which includes Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and India — speaks for itself.

    Nerd narrative

    2.26% of world GDP will be spent on military expenses in 2030, according to the Metaculus Predicition Community.

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