Korea’s arms exports crossed a record US$17 billion early this month and will likely exceed $20 billion by year’s end.
The main driver has been Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which spurred frantic arms purchases from neighboring Poland.
Arms export deals Korea struck with Poland alone this year are worth $14.76 billion, including K2 tanks, K9 self-propelled howitzer guns, FA-50 light combat fighter jets and Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers.
Originally, Poland had considered buying the weapons from the U.S. and Germany, but it decided to buy Korean weapons instead because they are cheaper and can be delivered faster. The German Leopard-2 A7 tank and PzH 2000 self-propelled gun are twice as expensive as Korea’s K2 tank and K9 howitzer.
From left, the K-9 self-propelled howitzer gun, the K2 tank and the FA-50 light combat fighter jet
A shipment of 180 K2 tanks can be delivered to Poland within three years, while Leopard-2 tanks would take an epic 15 years. Germany has lost a lot of competitiveness as a result of slashed defense spending and halt of assembly lines in the defense industry since the end of the Cold War, though it once boasted world-class weapons and combat capabilities.
Another reason for the success is that “Korea was sincere about agreeing to produce products locally in Poland, transfer technology and carry out joint development as requested,” said Chang Won-joon of the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade.
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