In a mere generation, the Republic of Korea’s defense industry matured to the point where it can fulfill the vast majority of the requirements of its own armed forces and produce some impressively advanced systems.” -Daniel YoonIn an interview conducted with The Cipher Brief, Daniel Yoon, Avascent Analytics Senior Market Analyst, discussed the achievements of South Korea’s defense industry since its first efforts to develop a heavy defense industry after the Korean War and what challenges remain on the road ahead. Yoon outlined how the Republic of Korea’s defense industry has progressed since the licensed production of the M-16 rifle began in 1971, with the Hyundai group producing the K-1 main battle tank for the Republic of Korea Army, Samsung group co-producing the UH-1 utility helicopters with Bell Helicopters, and Daewoo group working with Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. for the manufacture of the H-76, all by 1990. With the decades followed seeing a focus on the launch of a series of major indigenous naval combatant construction programs – including the ongoing Korean Destroyer Experimental (KDX) and Korean Attack Submarine (KSS) programs, and the 2000s bringing a concerted effort to develop an advanced indigenous aerospace manufacturing capacity driven primarily by a Korea Aerospace Industries Co. Ltd.-Lockheed Martin Corp. partnership for the T-50 Golden Eagle trainer aircraft and its F/A-50 light attack variant.
Yoon went on to argue that further growth for the industry hinges on two critical issues: making the jump from domestic production for domestic consumption (with heavy political support and guaranteed local customers) to offering globally competitive products; and the country’s broader ability to spawn, incubate, and sustain a large defense science and technology base that contributes regular innovations to the industry. The interview further covered specific skills and technologies South Korea is most interested in acquiring; cooperation with foreign companies and governments; and which systems, platforms, and technologies still remain beyond South Korea’s reach.
To read the full interview, click here: South Korean Defense Industry: Time to Take Off the “Training Wheels?”.