Yoon says S. Korea’s defense industry is writing new history

SEOUL, President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged on Tuesday to enhance the competitiveness of the country's defense industry, saying that it is writing new history in a rags-to-riches narrative.

Yoon made the remarks during the opening ceremony of the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) 2023 at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, just south of Seoul. The event will run for six days until Sunday.

This year's ADEX is set to bring together approximately 550 companies from 35 countries and is expected to draw around 30,000 visitors, including over 114 military and defense officials from 55 countries, making it the largest-ever edition of this biennial event, which was first launched in 1996.

"The country that once depended on assistance and imports has now leaped to the level of independently producing state-of-the-art fighter jets and exporting them," Yoon said, adding that the nation's defense industry is writing new history.

Last year, South Korea's arms exports hit a record high of 22.9 trillion won (US$17.9 billion), according to Morgan Stanley, as it signed major contracts with Poland to supply K2 tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers, FA-50 light attack aircraft and Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers.

"The defense industry is a strategic national industry that supports national defense and the economy," Yoon said, adding that the government aims to create an ecosystem that enhances global competitiveness.

Yoon also highlighted that this year's ADEX will feature the participation of U.S. forces, demonstrating the overwhelming capabilities of the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

South Korea's homegrown KF-21 fighter jet will conduct a demonstration flight in its public debut, which will be joined by U.S. military aircraft, including the F-22 stealth jet, F-16 fighter jet, T-50 trainer jet and U-2 spy plane, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bilateral alliance this year.

Boosting the competitiveness of arms exports has been one of the key objectives of the Yoon administration.

Earlier this year, the government established a public-private consultative body that brings together the presidential National Security Office, the defense, foreign and industry ministries, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, and defense companies to discuss strategies for boosting arms exports.

Alongside the defense industry, Yoon also emphasized the significance of aerospace technology and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, which could be crucial in future battlefields.

"Our government actively supports the aerospace industry that will lead the new space era, with the goal of becoming one of the world's top five space technology nations," Yoon said.

Yoon also highlighted his administration's preparations to launch a state aerospace agency, one of his key campaign promises.

"The public and private sectors will closely collaborate to drive the advancement of the aerospace industry, with the newly established aerospace agency at its core," Yoon said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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