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South Korea

Military Production

The Defense Industry Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense was the government agency responsible for managing the quantity and quality of domestically produced weapons and equipment. In 1990 South Korean industries provided about 70 percent of the weapons, ammunition, communications and other types of equipment, vehicles, clothing, and other supplies needed by the military.

Weapons production for the army began in 1971 when the Ministry of National Defense constructed a plant to assemble United States-designed Colt M-16 rifles. The memorandum of agreement between the United States and the Republic of Korea authorized production of enough rifles to supply South Korean army units. However, the agreement prohibited the production of additional M-16s without the permission of Colt Industries and the United States government. In the mid-1970s, South Korea signed agreements to begin licensed production of many types of United States-designed weapons, including grenades, mortars, mines, and recoilless rifles, with the same stipulations as those for the M-16 rifle. South Korea also began to manufacture ammunition for the weapons it produced for the army.

By 1990 South Korean companies had army contracts to produce tanks, self-propelled and towed field guns, two types of armored vehicles, and two types of helicopters. A division of Hyundai produced the 88 Tank (formerly called the K-1 tank) at Ch'angwon. The K-1 was the result of a joint United States-South Korean design. The 88 Tank's 105mm gun was an improved version of the same caliber gun that was standard on South Korea's M-48A5 tanks. Although a few components of the tanks' fire control and transmission systems were imported, Hyundai and South Korean subcontractors manufactured most of the systems. One of the Samsung Group's businesses produced 155mm M-109 self-propelled howitzers. KIA Machine Tool was the manufacturer for the KH-178 105mm and the KH-179 155mm towed field guns. The KH-178 and KH179 guns were derived from United States-designed artillery but were considered indigenously designed. Daewoo Industries and Asia Motors had a coproduction agreement for an Italian-designed wheeled, armored personnel vehicle. Bell Helicopters Textron of the United States and Samsung coproduced UH-1 helicopters. Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, also of the United States, had a contract with Daewoo to coproduce H-76 helicopters.

In December 1989, the Ministry of National Defense selected the McDonnell Douglas FA-18 to be the second United Statesdesigned fighter aircraft to be coproduced in South Korea. Samsung's aerospace division was awarded a contract to manufacture the airframe and engine; Lucky-Goldstar became the subcontractor for the aircraft's avionics. McDonnell Douglas agreed to deliver twelve FA-18s to the South Korean air force in 1993 and to assist Samsung with the later assembly of 108 aircraft in South Korea. As of 1990, the entire FA-18 program was under review because of increased costs. Korean Air used its depot maintenance facilities at Kimhae to overhaul most types of aircraft in service with the South Korean air force. Additionally, the United States Air Force contracted with Korean Air for the maintenance of its F-4, F-15, A-10, and C-130 aircraft stationed in South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.

In 1990 South Korean shipbuilders were building two indigenously designed naval vessels, and they had coproduction agreements with United States, Italian, and German companies for several other types of ships. Four shipbuilders--Hyundai, Daewoo, Korea Tacoma, and Korean Shipbuilding and Engineering-- constructed South Korean-designed Ulsan-class frigates and Tonghae-class corvettes for the navy. During the 1980s, Korea Tacoma, a South Korean-owned subsidiary of the United States Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, produced one class of patrol gunboat and one class of landing ship for the navy. The Kirogi-class patrol boat was a larger model of the Tacoma-designed Schoolboyclass patrol boat manufactured in South Korea during the 1970s. The Kirogi-class patrol boat, a 170-ton vessel, required a thirty-one-person crew and was equipped with five guns: one 40mm single-barreled Bofors on the bow, two 30mm twin-barreled Emerson Electrics in the stern, and two 20mm Oerlikon twin-barreled guns behind the bridge. The Kirogi-class patrol boat, with a range of 700 kilometers and a maximum speed of 38 knots, was well suited for its inshore patrol mission.

The Mulgae-class landing ship, another naval vessel designed and produced in the United States by Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, was ordered by the navy to augment a small amphibious fleet that comprised several models of obsolescent transport craft produced in the United States during World War II and transferred to the South Korean navy in the 1960s and 1970s. The Mulgae-class landing ship was designed to carry an infantry company with its weapons, mechanized and wheeled vehicles, and other supplies. It had a range of 560 kilometers and a maximum speed of 13 knots. In 1986 South Korea's Kangnam Shipbuilding Corporation began construction of the Swallow/Chebi class minehunter, which was based on the Italian-designed Lerici-class. At that time, the South Korean navy had only eight United States-produced Kunsanclass minesweepers in service with the three fleets. The Swallowclass minehunter had new types of sonar and mine countermeasure equipment that was expected to improve the navy's capability to locate and to eliminate minefields in international shipping lanes during wartime.

In the late 1980s, production of submarines designed by the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was initiated. Three 150-ton submarines designed by the Howaldswerke Shipbuilding Corporation were in service with the navy in 1990. Howaldswerke also had plans to provide technical assistance for the construction of three Type 209 submarines, about 1,400 tons each. South Korean military planners were interested in using submarines to protect critical shipping lanes from North Korean submarines in wartime.

Data as of June 1990

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