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Korea’s defense industry is ‘writing new history,’ Yoon says at ADEX

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President Yoon Suk Yeol makes a speech on the backdrop of the KF-21 at the opening ceremony of Seoul ADEX 2023 held in Seoul Air Base, Gyeonggi, on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
President Yoon Suk Yeol makes a speech on the backdrop of the KF-21 at the opening ceremony of Seoul ADEX 2023 held in Seoul Air Base, Gyeonggi, on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

President Yoon Suk Yeol said the next steps for Korea’s defense industry are aerospace engineering and artificial intelligence, citing Korea’s achievements in developing high-tech defense systems, such as the homegrown fighter jet KF-21.

“The keys to victory in the future battlefield are aerospace and AI,” Yoon said during his opening speech at Korea’s biggest arms fair, the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition, known as ADEX, at Seoul Air Base in Gyeonggi on Tuesday.

“As [Korea’s goal] is to become one of the top five countries in the world in space technology, [the government] will provide full support so that our aerospace industry will lead the new space era,” Yoon said, adding that a state aerospace agency will be established soon.

He also said that the government will provide full support in speeding up the implementation of AI technologies in the military.

Yoon praised Korea’s achievements in developing high-tech defense systems.

“From a country that once relied on aid and imports, today we have reached a level where not only did we independently develop high-tech fighter jets but export them,” Yoon said.

“Our defense industry is writing a new history of creating something new out of nothing.”

Yoon said Korea’s homegrown defense systems, including the KF-21 fighter jet; light combat aircraft FA-50, surface-to-air missiles M-SAM and L-SAM, K-9 howitzer, K-2 tank, transport helicopter Surion, combat helicopter LAH, infantry fighting vehicle Redback and precision targeting rocket artillery system Chunmoo, show the potential of Korea’s defense industry.

“These weapons behind me are the products of passion and challenges,” Yoon said.

He also noted the importance of the alliance between Korea and the United States.

“The U.S. military has also joined this year’s Seoul ADEX,” Yoon said. “Visitors will be able to see for themselves the overwhelming capacity of the ROK-US alliance, which has protected the free democracy through blood.”

He added that the government will establish a business ecosystem to sustain the growth of Korea’s defense industry.

“Our defense cooperation [with other countries] is now beyond simply exporting weapons,” Yoon said. “The cooperation has developed to supplying equipment and parts, training and research and development.”

“We plan to establish a defense security cooperation system with friendly countries by sharing our experience growing our defense industry.”

ADEX this year is the largest in size, with 550 companies from 34 countries participating, its organizing committee said.

This year, government representatives from 57 countries visited the exhibition.

The exhibition marks its 14th since its first inception in 1996.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]