South Korea is leveraging a $13.7 billion arms contract with Poland – the country’s largest ever – to build the framework for a military-industrial behemoth that the two countries’ defense corporations hope will satisfy Europe’s need for weapons for the foreseeable future.
According to South Korea’s defense ministry, arms sales increased to more than $17 billion in 2022, up from $7.25 billion the previous year, as Western countries hurried to equip Ukraine and tensions mounted in other hot places such as North Korea and the South China Sea.
The arms deal with Poland, a key NATO member, last year included hundreds of Chunmoo rocket launchers, K2 tanks, K9 self-propelled howitzers, and FA-50 fighter aircraft. The deal’s value and the number of weapons involved made it stand out even among the world’s biggest defense players.
South Korean and Polish officials say their partnership will help them conquer the European arms market even beyond the Ukraine war, with Seoul providing high-quality weapons faster than other countries and Poland offering manufacturing capacity and a sales pipeline into Europe.
Reuters spoke to 13 company executives and government officials, including those directly involved in the deal, who said the arrangement provides a blueprint for using international public-private partnerships and consortiums to extend Seoul’s reach and achieve its ambition to be one of the world’s biggest weapons suppliers.