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(LEAD) (Yonhap Interview) S. Korea eyeing Eastern European, African markets for defense exports

All Headlines 16:19 September 07, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS South Korea's existing markets in 5th para)
By Choi Kyong-ae

GOYANG, South Korea, Sept. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea views Eastern Europe and Africa as "potential" markets for its weapons systems, the chief of the country's state defense procurement agency said Wednesday.

"We have gradually increased our exports by making more technologically advanced armaments. We are now seeing Eastern Europe and Africa as new growth markets," Chang Myoung-jin, minister of Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

He did not provide the names of countries being targeted, citing the sensitivity of defense-related deals but expressed optimism that headway can be made.

He spoke to Yonhap on the sidelines of the ongoing Defense Expo Korea (DX Korea) 2016, an annual defense forum held at the KINTEX exhibition hall in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

South Korea's existing markets include the Middle East, Southeast Asia and certain North European countries such as Norway and Finland, the DAPA said.

In this photo taken on Sept. 7, 2016, Chang Myoung-jin, head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), delivers an opening speech during the 2nd Defense Expo Korea at KINTEX exhibition hall in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

Faced with fiercer competition among arms exporting countries, South Korea needs to further hone its technology to provide high-end weapons in the global market, the senior official said.

"In the defense industry markets, China is making an aggressive push to gain a bigger share and Japan is also making greater effort to strengthen its presence. The Chinese government is even giving full-scale financial support to its defense industry firms so they can better sell their products globally," Chang pointed out.

"At this critical juncture, South Korea should double its efforts to gain a foothold in the high value-added market."

When President Park Geun-hye makes an overseas trip to potential buyer countries, South Korean companies need to make the best use of the presidential visit to promote their weapons systems and sign initial deals with local firms for future contracts, the minister said.

Exporting Korean-made helicopters, trainer jets and other weapons will greatly improve South Korea's economic growth in the long term, industry insiders have said, citing the defense industry could become a new growth driver for Asia's fourth-biggest economy.

South Korea has to provide high-quality weapons at competitive prices to overseas clients, Chang said. He said the country should export operations-related and maintenance services for shipped armaments, which can further boost its competitiveness.

He went on to say all the deals should be based on "mutual trust" between South Korea, and its existing and potential weapons buyers.

South Korea's defense exports soared to US$3.54 billion in 2015 compared with $250 million in 2006, according to the state defense acquisition agency.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
(END)

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