“Lee Myung-bak government making biggest US arms purchases in south Korean history” [The Hankyoreh / 한겨레]

May 22, 2012

In administration’s last year, huge haul of weapons being bought without public discussion
By Ha Eo-young, staff reporter

The Lee government has become one of the US arms industry’s biggest customers. The government is now pushing ahead with a massive purchase of heavy weaponry that is expected to go through by the end of 2012. It now appears that the purchased items will cost South Korean taxpayers more than twice what was originally anticipated.

Controversy over the steeper-than-expected price tag for navy helicopters comes on the heels of similar revelations about the price of next-generation fighter jets. There is now substantial reason to expect that the total cost of these weapons will be far above the 14 trillion won (about US$12 billion) initially announced by the administration.

A Defense Acquisition Program Administration official said Monday that the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) had submitted an application for approval to Congress on May 16 with an itemized list of the weapons to be purchased. The application stated that the South Korean government had requested the sale of eight Seahawk helicopters (MH-60R), eighteen engines, communications equipment, and electronic combat systems for a cost of US$1 billion. With the current exchange rate, the figure is more than double the figure of 553.8 billion won initially given by the administration.

The purchase of the helicopters will be a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) through the US Defense [sic] Department. The South Korean Ministry of National Defense and DAPA plan to finish selecting models and sign a purchase contract by October.

A DAPA official said, “The price isn’t set in stone, even if a report did go to the US Congress.” The official added that confidentiality terms in advance of the deal’s signing prevented any further explanation.

The Lee Myung-bak administration plans to introduce 14 trillion won in weapons during 2012, the last year of its rule. It previously stated that eight trillion won was being spent on next-generation fighters, 1.83 trillion won on attack helicopters, 1.805 trillion won in KF-16 fighter improvements, 500.2 billion won on unmanned surveillance planes, and 553.8 billion won on navy helicopters.

“There are errors in the prices set for all the state-of-the-art weapons, not just helicopters,” said Kim Jong-dae, editor-in-chief of the online military affairs journal Defense 21+.

“The purchase price is going up to 20 trillion won, and with the cost of operations added to that, there‘s a good chance the next administration is going to be hit by a debt bomb executing the terms of the contract,” Kim predicted.

“The plans for purchasing US weapons are the biggest in the history of the Korean nation, and they’re being pushed without any kind of public debate,” Kim said. “The purchases need to be postponed and reconsidered by the next administration.”

Article link: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/534023.html

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