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Defense minister vows support for sluggish arms industry

South Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo pledged Friday to strive harder to bolster the sluggish arms industry by capitalizing on the country's technological edge.  

Jeong made the remarks amid a growing sense of crisis among local defense firms that has been fanned by declining sales and failure to win overseas projects, such as a bid to supply trainer aircraft to the US military.  

"I will make efforts to strengthen support for defense exports in light of military diplomacy and try to ensure that the military, which has been building up its force, will play a role in helping revitalize the domestic market," he said.   

As a way to enhance the competitiveness of South Korean firms, Jeong underscored the need to utilize the emerging technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, a fast-paced transformation marked by the convergence of such technologies as artificial intelligence, big data and virtual reality.  

South Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (second left) at Friday's meeting. (Defense Ministry)
South Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (second left) at Friday's meeting. (Defense Ministry)

At the meeting, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration explained a set of government plans to support the defense industry, including programs to raise venture startups and strengthen defense research capabilities.  

Sales by Korea's defense industry dropped 13.9 percent from a year ago to 12.76 trillion won ($11.35 billion) last year, partly due to decreased exports and increased research costs, according to the Korea Defense Industry Association, an umbrella body of 93 defense-related companies.  

It was the first time the industry saw its sales fall since it began to compile related data in 1983. (Yonhap)