South Korea’s 2023 Arms Exports Reach Nearly $14 Billion Amid Rising Global Demand

SEOUL - Despite a decline from last year's record figures, South Korea's arms exports in 2023 witnessed an increase in the number of importers, driven by strong global demand for its advanced weaponry, according to the nation's defense ministry.

According to Yonhap News Agency, A defense ministry official reported that South Korean firms secured weapons contracts valued at nearly $14 billion this year. The exact figure has not been disclosed as the official data is not yet available. This amount represents a decrease from 2022's record high of $17.3 billion, which was significantly boosted by major deals with Poland, accounting for 72 percent of the total exports.

In 2022, Poland signed agreements worth $13 billion with South Korean companies for K-2 tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers, FA-50 light attack aircraft, and K-239 Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers, as part of its defense strengthening efforts amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The ministry noted that the number of importing countries tripled to 12 this year, and the variety of exported weapons systems doubled to 12. Notable contracts this year included Hanwha Aerospace's $2.4 billion deal to sell 129 Redback infantry fighting vehicles to Australia and Korea Aerospace Industries' $920 million contract to supply 18 FA-50 light attack aircraft to Malaysia.

Looking ahead, Seoul officials anticipate surpassing the previous record with over $20 billion in exports next year, pending the finalization of a second round of weapons deals with Poland. Negotiations for these deals are currently ongoing.

South Korea has set a goal to capture a 5 percent share of the global arms export market by 2027, aiming to become the world's fourth-largest defense exporter.

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