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N. Korean military spending nearly 30% of S. Korea’s: defense minister

N. Korean military spending nearly 30% of S. Korea’s: defense minister

Posted May. 05, 2016 07:41,   

Updated May. 05, 2016 07:45

South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said Wednesday that North Korea is building up its military might centering on attack weapons and is in a more advantageous condition for arms buildup than the South Korean military.

He made the remarks in his keynote speech to the 2016 K-Defense Forum hosted by the Dong-A Ilbo and Channel A in Seoul. Officials from about 30 defense companies attended the forum, which was held to discuss the future of the South Korean defense industry.

According to Han, North Korea’s arms buildup costs less than that of South Korea because it is focused on increasing attack weapons, such as nuclear weapons, missiles, multiple rocket launchers and submarines. Amid the North’s nuclear and missile threats, the South Korean military has bigger cost burdens because its arms buildup is concentrated on high-tech defense weapons, including a missile defense system.

While North Korea started its arms buildup in earnest in 1962 when it adopted the “Four Military Lines,” the South did not have a major arms buildup project until 1974, when Seoul launched the Yulgok Project to get over the military inferiority to the North. “Our military’s accumulated arms buildup investment did not exceed that of the North until the mid-2000s,” the defense chief said.

Han also rebutted the public criticism that the South Korean military has spent far more defense budgets that the North but failed to properly respond to Pyongyang’s threats. He said that the North spent 10 billion U.S. dollars as of 2013, nearly 30 percent of the South’s 2014 defense budget of 32.5 billion dollars. The North’s defense spending accounts for 20 to 30 percent of its gross domestic product, compared with 2.38 percent of the South.

The argument that South Korean defense expenditures were 30 times greater than that of the North was based on the defense spending announced unilaterally by the North, failing to take into consideration Pyongyang’s concealed military spending and the purchasing power parities, the South Korean military said.

손효주기자 hjson@donga.com