Korea, South

According to official data released by the South Korean Ministry of National Defence, in 2017, the country’s defence budget is expected to reach 40.33 trillion South Korean Won – KRW- (approximately 36.5 billion US dollars), increased by some 4% compared to the previous year (38.8 trillion KRW or 34 billion US dollars) and surpassing the 40 trillion Won mark, for the first time. This increase, is largely attributed to the military threat posed by North Korea, the strengthening of military power of neighbouring countries in Northeast Asia and the changes in the security and military environment of the region. The lion’s share of the budget increase falls on plans to deploy the Korean Air and Missile Defence (KAMD) system. According to the 2017 defence budget, 533.1 billion KRW (about 456 million US dollars) will be allocated to the KAMD project, an increase of 40.5% compared to the 2016 budget in which 379.5 billion KRW (325 million US dollars) were allocated for the specific program. The KAMD system is currently capable of intercepting North Korean ballistic missiles in their terminal stage and its core weapons system consists of medium- and long-range surface-to-air missiles, Patriot missiles, and an early warning radar. The plans are for the KAMD construction project to be completed by the mid-2020s.

According to official data released by the South Korean Ministry of National Defence, in 2017, the country’s defence budget is expected to reach 40.33 trillion South Korean Won – KRW- (approximately 36.5 billion US dollars), increased by some 4% compared to the previous year (38.8 trillion KRW or 34 billion US dollars) and surpassing the 40 trillion Won mark, for the first time. This increase, is largely attributed to the military threat posed by North Korea, the strengthening of military power of neighbouring countries in Northeast Asia and the changes in the security and military environment of the region. The lion’s share of the budget increase falls on plans to deploy the Korean Air and Missile Defence (KAMD) system. According to the 2017 defence budget, 533.1 billion KRW (about 456 million US dollars) will be allocated to the KAMD project, an increase of 40.5% compared to the 2016 budget in which 379.5 billion KRW (325 million US dollars) were allocated for the specific program. The KAMD system is currently capable of intercepting North Korean ballistic missiles in their terminal stage and its core weapons system consists of medium- and long-range surface-to-air missiles, Patriot missiles, and an early warning radar. The plans are for the KAMD construction project to be completed by the mid-2020s.

Further, the 2017 budget foresees 28.17 trillion KRW (equivalent to 69.8% of total defence expenditure) for operating and personnel expenses and 12.16 trillion KRW (30.2%) for the enactment of defence modernisation programs. The same pattern was evident in the 2016 budget, were 70.1% of the total Defence expenditure was allocated to ‘force maintenance’ programs and the remaining 29.9% to ‘force modernization’ programs. More analytically, 36.8% of the ‘force maintenance’ programs were allocated to personnel expenses, 5.5% to food and clothing, 1.4% to defence informatization, 0.7% to service members welfare, 11.9% to logistics support, 1.4% to training and education, 6.8% to installation construction and 5.6% to other categories.  

As was already indicated, the lion’s share of the 2017 budget increase, falls on plans to deploy the KAMD system. South Korea traditionally spends a considerable amount of funds in upgrading its Air and Missile Defences. Under this context, in 2015, the country’s authorities awarded Raytheon a $769.4 million Direct Commercial Sale contract to upgrade an undisclosed quantity of Patriot Air and Missile Defence System batteries to the latest version. Mr. Dan Crowley, President of Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems stated that: “The upgrade enhances the Republic of Korea's defences and underscores the value of the 13-nation strong Patriot partnership which funded development of the modernization. The Republic of Korea's procurement is also an economic growth engine which will bring good jobs to Korea and preserve jobs in the US which would have gone overseas if a foreign system was selected.”

Apart from the KADM program, South Korea, is planning to carry out a series of other major acquisition programs. More specifically, during the 2015-2019 period, the country is going to modernise several aspects of its land forces. Among other items, South Korea aims to enhance their surveillance, reconnaissance, and command and control capabilities, as well as their manoeuvre and precision strike capabilities. Regarding the country’s naval forces, it is expected that efforts will be invested in strengthening their capabilities as far as protecting sea lines of communi¬cation (SLOC). Additionally, capabilities for enabling amphibious operations will be acquired.

Regarding the country’s air force, the largest modernisation program on the cards, is that of the F-16s upgrade. Within this frame, in November 2016, Lockheed Martin was awarded a 1.2 billion US dollars contract, to upgrade 134 Korean F-16 aircraft to the F-16V configuration. Among the enhancements to be introduced, are an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, a large-format, high-resolution centre pedestal display and a high-volume and high-speed data bus.

Overall, the Korean Army is in a process of restructuring. The intention of the country’s authorities is to establish a more efficient military command system that will allow the national Armed Forces to take initiative in terms of war planning and to set up a more coherent military cooperative scheme for Korean-US combined operations. Additionally, the troops’ structure is to be changed, creating a cadre-based military. This will create a shift to a technology-intensive structure, supported mainly by officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

Additionally, troop’s numbers are to be downsized. This process has already started, as military personnel decreased by 26,000, over the period 2005-2009. Total military personnel back in 2005, amount to some 681,000. Of these, 548,000 served in the Army, 41,000 served in the Navy, 27,000 in Marine Corps and 65,000 in the Air Force. In 2009, this number was reduced to 655,000 overall. The 26,000 personnel reduction came from the ranks of the Army, while the personnel of the other branches of the Armed Forces (i.e. Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force), remained the same.

The projection for 2020 is that the overall number will be further reduced to some 517,000 staff. Once again the Army will absorb this reduction, as the total number of its personnel will be reduced from 522,000 (2009) to 387.2 thousand in 2020. The only other branch that will see a cut in its personnel, is the Marine Corps (from 27,000 in 2009, to 23.8 thousands in 2020).    

Furthermore, the responsible authorities of the country are aiming to enhance international cooperation with foreign countries, in the field of defence. To this end, in September of 2010, during the Indian Defence Minister’s visit to South Korea, MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding) on Defence Cooperation, as also on R&D cooperation between the Korean Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and India's Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) were signed.

Later, in February 2012, the Chief of the Acquisition Planning Office of DAPA, and his counterpart, the Chief Controller of the DRDO, exchanged opinions at the S. Korea-India Cooperative Defence Research and Development Committee. The agenda of the meeting dealt mainly with joint development projects and pending issues about technology cooperation. Furthermore, the Indian delegation visited the Korean Agency for Defence Development (ADD), a core think tank for Korean-designed weapons development, and several major Korean defence industries, including Samsung Techwin.  

During the visit, a DAPA official stated the following: "we will take this cooperation committee as a good opportunity to continue doing S. Korea-India joint research and development, furthermore, through such a successful collaboration of the two sides on defence technology development, we are expected to cut the research and development budget, shorten the development duration, and by so doing, further promote the export of military supplies by co-producing them and creating new markets. As a result, the committee is anticipated to play a role as the hub of the joint research and development in the Asian region."