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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
A report on the Ministry of National Defense’s (MND) military body armor – which was later proven to not be sufficient for stopping North Korean bullets – has opened the door on a corruption scandal in South Korea.
The report from the Board of Audit and Inspection issued on Thursday claims the MND gave preferential treatment to a single company, which allowed it to supply “penetrable” body armor to the South Korean military. While the report did not name the company, subsequent articles in South Korean media revealed it was the Seoul based Samyang Comtech.
“According to analysis, the North Korean military uses common rounds as well as Armor Piercing (AP) rounds … test results from June 2015 showed that body armor produced by the company were completely penetrated by the AP rounds,” the reports reads.
At the time of writing, Samyang Comtech were not available to comment on the news.
The South Korean military in 2007 launched a project to develop its own Liquid Armor, an advanced type of bullet proof armor that can effectively stop both common rounds and AP rounds fired from the North Korean variant of the AK-74.
However, the new liquid armor project was suddenly aborted in October 2011 and at the time the MND explained the liquid armor was unsuitable for use.
The Board’s investigation revealed that the actual reason for the abortion of the liquid armor project was because of an MND official who was in a “back-scratching agreement” with Samyang. The secret deal meant the company would be the only supplier of the body armor to the South Korean military.
The inspection showed that to monopolize the business, Samyang Comtech lobbied the MND to lower the armor’s Required Operational Capability (ROC), to the point where it was no longer bullet proof against North Korean AP rounds.
The report reveals Samyang would have provided more than 300,000 failed units to the South Korean military until the year 2025, at a cost of 270 billion Korean won (U.S. 240 million).
Military experts pointed out two reasons behind the production of the unsuitable body armor.
“Failing to set the right ROC before production begins is what usually causes this kind of trouble,” Kim Dong Kyu, the former military adviser to South Korea’s National Defense Committee told NK News.
“Logistic issues such as body armor or uniforms are only allowed to be produced by a few companies owned by former military personnel, in this structure there can be no fair competition,” a civilian military adviser working between South Korea and international authorities told NK News under the condition of anonymity.
The MND on Thursday announced they will closely review the inspection result and faithfully carry out any follow-up measures, Newsis agency reported.
Featured image: DPRK Today