South Korean Defense budget to increase by 7.4 percent

South Korea and North Korea increase the size and accelerate the pace of modernization of their arsenals in the framework of rising tensions between both countries and with the U.S.A., as easily foreseeable by anybody having a basic understanding of intelligence interpretation.

South Korean defense budget to increase by 7.4 percent
South-Korean made K-1AI main battle tank (Picture source: Army Recognition)

According to the budget plan approved by the National Assembly the previous day, military spending for 2020 was set at 50.15 trillion won (US$41.29 billion), up from this year's 46.7 trillion won. It is the first time the country's defense budget has surpassed the 50 trillion-won mark, Oh Seok-min reports. This evolution has an easy explanation: the recent missile and rocket live-fire tests carried by North Korea (already reported by Army Recognition) increase the tension and the forthcoming new ones will worsen the situation. Last 10 December, Kim Jong Un had personally supervised test-firing of a large multiple-rocket launch system, a type of weapon that threatens South Korean and U.S. forces in South Korea. So far in 2019, it has conducted a total of 13 rounds of major weapons tests, such as new types of short-range ballistic missiles and a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Of the total of 50.15 trillion won (US$41.29 billion), the government will spend 16.68 trillion won on arms purchases and other projects next year to boost defense capabilities, up 8.5 percent from 2019. Around 33.47 trillion won was set aside for managing military assets and forces, marking an on-year growth of 6.9%. The South Korean administration has indeed committed billions of additional dollars to the country’s defense budget, which is already among the largest in the world. In 2018, South Korea’s military expenditures reached $43.1 billion, an increase of 7% compared with 2017. The Defense ministry earmarked 6.22 trillion won for projects aimed at countering threats from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, up 22.6% from this year. The projects include the introduction of more F-35A stealth fighter jets, building a 3,000-ton Chang Bo Go-III submarine, securing military reconnaissance satellites, developing L-SAM (long-range surface-to-air missiles) and building a light aircraft carrier: in July, the Ministry of National Defense announced South Korea would build a light aircraft carrier, the country’s first. And in August it unveiled a plan to spend about $239 billion more between 2020 and 2024. About $85 billion of the future budget is earmarked for arms improvements, representing an average 10.3% year-on-year increase. Of most immediate concern to North Korea, this year South Korea took delivery of the first of 40 land-based F-35A Lightning II jets.

The Ministry vowed to push securing military communication and counter-artillery assets, which require 1.97 trillion won in 2020. Among the other weapons, South Korea wants to get are new missile defense systems, three more destroyers equipped with the cutting-edge Aegis radar system, spy satellites and high-altitude reconnaissance drones, anti-submarine helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft, submarines capable of firing cruise and ballistic missiles, and a ship armed with guided missiles. By 2023, the “force enhancement” budget will account for more than 36% of total defense spending, up from about 31% in 2019, according to South Korea’s 2018 Defense White Paper. South Korea is on course to be the largest military R&D spender in the world, as a proportion of its budget. They are angling to be a bigger player than ever on the world stage.