South Korea and Japan are aggressively targeting the Asian defense market, which had long been dominated by the US, the U.K., China and Russia.
Japanese companies are promoting their defense equipment at a four-day international security exhibit that got under way Monday in Bangkok. Twelve companies, including Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., NEC Corp. and chemical maker Teijin Ltd., took part in the Japanese pavilion, which drew a visit from Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan.
Seoul is hoping to expand into the growing Thai and regional markets, and is exhibiting its wares at the Defence Services Asia exhibiton in Bangkok, Korea Herald reported Monday. Nine South Korean ship, aircraft and arms manufacturing companies are participating in the event.
Four trainer jets were exported last September by Korea Aerospace Industries to Thailand. Korean Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering had also exported a 209-ton class frigate in 2013.
The participating South Korean companies include Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, Korea Aerospace Industries, Poongsan, S&T Motiv and Hanwha, as well as 13 small and midsized contractors. About 13 small and midsized contractors are also participating in the event.
“The participating companies were selected after a prior market research and analysis on their sales potential,” Lee Jong-duk, director of the international affairs division at the Korea Defense Industry Association said.
“Despite the relatively short history of our defense industry in international markets, our growing technological capabilities have improved the overall image of our products and are thus brightening the outlook for additional exports to the region.” Jong-duk added.
Poongsan, a South Korean bullet maker, secured a $15 million won deal with the Thailand to deliver rifle ammunitions.
“Since we secured the order for the Thai Navy’s first frigate, we were in a better position to win that for second and third ones,” a Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) official said.
Bangkok was expected to announce a new bid in one to two years, he added.
To better counter consistent threats of terrors, rebels and pirates, Bangkok is forecasting to bring in additional military equipment, pushing the market to grow more than eightfold from now to $202 million in 2023, Seoul’s Defense Agency for technology and Quality reported.
Till now Thailand’s local defense sector was heavily relying on overseas purchases, however, now Thailand is turning to partners who can provide not only weapons but also technologies required for production, a possible plus for Korean manufacturers.
“We expect to buy more Korean weapons systems based on our high confidence in its technological power,” said Air Chief Marshal Pongsatorn Buasup, chair of the board of directors at the Thai Defense Technology Institute, during his visit to Hanwha Thales.
“In the future, we hope not only to purchase them but also produce them jointly with Korea through technological sharing and cooperation in research and development.” Buasup added.