The Korea Herald


Korea to enhance hi-tech war systems

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 19, 2015 - 22:05

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South Korea’s Defense Ministry on Monday unveiled a new defense vision based on information and communication technologies, and other cutting-edge digital platforms to better counter evolving North Korean threats and other security challenges.

During its New Year’s policy briefing to President Park Geun-hye, Defense Minister Han Min-koo said the ministry would push to incorporate into military operations innovative technologies such as ICT, big data solutions and the Internet of Things, under the “Creative Defense” vision.

Capitalizing on the country’s technological savviness, the ministry will step up efforts to develop future weapons systems such as combat equipment using laser beams and electromagnetic waves, and unmanned platforms, he said.

“In consideration of the limited defense resources and various security threats, we will push to come up with more creative, innovative ways to manage our military, going beyond the old approach that was mainly about catching up with others rather than moving ahead of them,” Han told reporters after the policy briefing at Cheong Wa Dae.

“Creative defense means creating new defense values through a significant change that will be brought about by infusing humans’ creative thinking and cutting-edge technologies into all aspects of defense-related tasks.”

Touching on the criticism that the initiative seems to be something carved out of a sci-fi novel, Han noted that the vision, devised to support President Park’s “creative economy” vision, was a mid- or long-term one that would require much time and effort.

“We can’t say, for now, by when we can fulfill that vision in terms of developing the type of future weapons employing state-of-the-art technologies. But this is the policy direction we are pushing for,” he said.

The ministry plans to focus on developing what it terms “reverse asymmetric weapon systems” ― which North Korea cannot develop due to its technological limitations ― to neutralize Pyongyang’s nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction.

Among the weapons under development are high-power microwave (HPM) weapons and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bombs, which are expected to be developed by the early 2020s. The ministry is also considering the development of laser-based weapons.

HPM, known as an “E-bomb,” can spew out massive electromagnetic power to damage all electronic devices within around 300 meters, experts say.

EMP also unleashes a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy that causes severe current and voltage surges to damage adjacent electronic devices. South Korea’s state-run Agency for Defense Development has been researching and developing the EMP weapons systems.

These weapons that are designed to disrupt operations of electronic devices and paralyze social infrastructures are called “soft-kill” weapons, compared with “hard-kill” weapons such as missiles that directly strike enemy targets. The ministry said it would build the soft-kill capabilities through close technological cooperation with the civilian sector.

Under the creative defense drive, the ministry also envisions a future “smart soldier system” equipped with a host of digital devices such as a high-tech communications tool, a night-vision combat-control helmet and an Internet-linked battle suit.

It is also considering paying more attention to developing unmanned battle systems including robots for combat deployment, surveillance tools and unmanned boats that would ensure fewer human losses and greater operational efficiency.

Despite the combat advantages that the ministry anticipates from the new vision, critics argue that there should be plans to finance it, and that the vision lacks details on how to realize its objectives.

By Song Sang-ho (