South Korea Stakes Major On Middle East Defense Exports

South Korea is becoming a defense partner of choice for Cairo, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi—major arms acquisitions and joint ventures for growth are creating these new alliances. However, Seoul’s growth is not guaranteed since it faces fierce competition.

Saudi Arabia may be on the brink of signing one of the most significant cooperation agreements in the field of defense between the Gulf state and South Korea, underscoring how Seoul has emerged as a partner of preference throughout the Middle East region.

Multiple Agreements of South Korean Companies

South Korean companies have signed numerous agreements over the last few years. South Korean companies have recently signed a flurry of deals in the Middle Eastern and North African markets, including some of the largest arms importers. Export agreements encompass everything from weapons to aircraft. Agreements signed over the last two years are estimated to be worth over USD 5 billion.

The growing relationship is the convergence of events. Arab Gulf states are looking to diversify their sources for defense procurement and partnerships that go outside of their usual Western suppliers. Additionally, Seoul offers more sophisticated options for equipment, usually at an affordable price and with a shorter time-to-market.

Working Together

South Korea’s arms sales have benefited from a strategy of encouraging local activity at a time when numerous Gulf nations are investing heavily in building their industrial base for defense. In the context of the K9 Thunder Sale to Egypt, Hanwha agreed to create the self-propelled artillery in conjunction with the Abu Zabel, the state-owned Abu Tank Repair Factory at a factory close to Cairo. Egypt might also get local production of jet trainers if Cairo takes the first step in an agreement to purchase 100 T-50s.

Projects for cooperative development are growing. In January 2023, the Tawauna of the UAE signed an agreement with KAI to develop a multi-mission military cargo aircraft named the MC-X. The conglomerate nature in many South Korean companies can also help establish local connections. A Hyundai subsidiary is currently building an ocean-based Company. Engine Plant is situated in Saudi Arabia, while the company’s defense arm is working to secure the country’s frigate contract.

South Korea signed several agreements with Egypt in February 2022 to strengthen these relations. That covers topics like defense industry cooperation, logistic support, and the principles of collaboration in research and development.

Way Forward

South Korea’s arms deals with the Gulf region are fine. Seoul needs to properly interpret its Foreign Trade Act (which bans both the export of arms to war zones as well as the re-exporting of weapons with no authorization) to prevent exports into the Middle East. The reality that the key elements of many South Korean platforms are from Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States makes them bound by third-party transfer restrictions from these countries.

Seoul isn’t one of the few relative newcomers in defense exports looking for gains within the Gulf. On August 20, 2023, Türkiye reached its largest-ever arms-export agreement, in which it agreed to sell Akinci UAV arms to Saudi Arabia in an agreement incorporating local production. China has been slowly expanding its trade in defense with the region.

West is in the Game

In the meantime, Western countries are not leaving the game. France is determinedly looking at numerous possibilities for sales in Saudi Arabia, including fighter aircraft. Also, Italy, Spain, the UK, the US, and other countries strongly desire to be part of the profits.

South Korea has achieved an enviable position within the marketplace. Uncertain is how big its share of Gulf business will grow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *