South Korea’s Arms Purchases: Filling a Bottomless Pit
East Asia Foundation
ISSN 2586-3037
May 21, 2019
South Korea’s defense expenditures increased 7.6 percent in 2017 and 8.2 percent in 2018, the highest increase among OECD member countries. By 2022, South Korea will be spending more on defense than Japan and will rank as the fifth or sixth highest spender in the world on its defense. The Korean Peninsula has been a high-risk region with heightened military tensions during the nine years of the Lee and Park administrations.

Their administrations devised the “Triad System” as their principle for military operations, a system that the Moon administration has continued, leading to large increases in the national defense budget. Military tensions on the Korean Peninsula are resulting in large sums being spent on defense, even though military experts often question the effectiveness of the Triad System.

That system inevitably leads to South Korea purchasing advanced weapons from abroad -- mainly from the US -- which will profit the US defense industry while not being of much help to the South Korean defense industry and cutting-edge technology. This not only drains the country’s wealth; it also has considerable geopolitical effects due to the country’s resulting technological dependency.

South Korea needs a “Plan B” that redefines its concept of military operations to overcome the current situation where weapons purchases harm rather than help national security.



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