Despite not reaching the record high of USD 17.3 billion in 2022, South Korean firms have signed nearly $14 billion in weapons deals this year, according to a defence ministry official. The slight dip follows last year’s mega deals with Poland, which constituted 72 percent of 2022’s total exports. These deals included significant purchases of K-2 tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers, FA-50 light attack aircraft, and K-239 Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers, largely in response to the Russia-Ukraine war.
In 2023, the diversity of South Korea’s arms export portfolio expanded significantly, with the number of importers increasing to 12 and the types of weapon systems doubling to 12. Notable contracts this year include Hanwha Aerospace’s USD 2.4 billion deal to supply 129 Redback infantry fighting vehicles to Australia and Korea Aerospace Industries’ USD 920 million contract for 18 FA-50 light attack aircraft to Malaysia.
Looking ahead, Seoul officials are optimistic about breaking the previous record, projecting exports to exceed USD 20 billion next year. This expectation hinges on the finalization of the second round of weapons deals with Poland, which are currently in negotiation.
Aiming to secure a 5 percent share of the global arms export market by 2027, South Korea is on track to become the world’s fourth-largest defence exporter, marking its growing presence and influence in the global arms industry.