About the Author
JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
South Korea’s defense budget for 2017 will rise to around KRW40.3 trillion (estimated USD34.3 billion), the first time it has gone over KRW40 trillion since the nation’s foundation, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Monday.
The increase is equivalent to roughly ten percent of South Korea’s entire annual budget for 2017.
“It is a norm for the defense improvement expenditure be cut off at KRW200 billion (USD170 million) during the examination process by the National Assembly,” an official from the MND said on Monday.
“Instead the expense was increased by KRW38 billion this time,” said the official, adding that the decision was made based on the ROK’s need to fund countermeasures to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
South Korea’s National Assembly approved the government’s KRW400.5 trillion budget on Saturday.
Some projects will see their budgets remain the same, including the project budget for the military satellite launch (KRW29.5 billion), the project to introduce FA-50, a light attack aircraft (KRW20 billion), the Tactical Information Communication Network (TICN) project (KRW20 billion), and the integration project for the K2 Black Panther tanks (KRW20 billion).
But some projects, primarily those focused on countering North Korean nuclear and missile threats, will see their funding increase under the new plans.
The project to adopt long-range air-to-surface guided missiles, such as the Taurus KEPD 350 missile – European-made bunker busters – will have its budget increased by KRW58.8 billion.
The project for the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar sees funding increased by KRW21.3 billion, and the Hyeonmu project, the surface-to-surface missile improvement plan, will receive an extra KRW30 billion.
The budget was also increased in preparation for the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) program, with the Patriot missile development project allocated KRW283 billion, an increase of around 100 billion compared to last year’s KRW174 billion.
A Seoul-based military expert welcomed the increased budget, but at the same time expressed concern about an overreliance on the procurement of materiel from the United States.
“This year’s defense budget plan makes me think that the ROK is buying even more U.S. made weapons next year,” Kim Dong-yup, a researcher at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, told NK News.
“This is such a short-sighted decision for the ROK. This habit will not be helpful in making the ROK take wartime operational control in the future.”
One former high-ranking ROK officer, currently working for a South Korean defense company, said this year’s increased defense budget is unlikely to be linked to the victory of Donald Trump in November’s U.S. election.
“The recently passed ROK budget was prepared during the U.S.’ nomination process,” said the source, who wished to remain anonymous. “I think it would have been too recent for the Trump’s victory to affect our next year’s defense budget.”
Edited by: Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: ROK MND official Flickr