The Korea Herald


Chilean, Czech envoys laud Korean weapons

By Choi Si-young

Published : May 10, 2023 - 22:33

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Mathias Francke, Chilean ambassador to South Korea. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) Mathias Francke, Chilean ambassador to South Korea. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

POCHEON, Gyeonggi Province -- The weapons systems developed by South Korea not only are efficient, but also offer opportunities to enhance defense ties, according to the top Chilean and Czech envoys in South Korea.

The two ambassadors were speaking to reporters following live-fire drills conducted by the Korean Army during a May 2 demonstration. The event, held for the first time for foreign diplomats in Seoul, was the latest highlight of the push by the Yoon Suk Yeol administration to secure potential arms buyers by showcasing the latest weapons.

“We don’t have big relations in terms of buying or selling arms. We’re better with wine. But we’re always cooperating with Korea. We’re in MOU (memorandum of understanding) and cooperation agreements, between the Ministry of Defense both in procurement and also in cooperation in other issues,” said Mathias Francke, Chilean ambassador to South Korea.

The envoy referred to his country’s recent purchases of Korean “tactical vehicles,” calling them the “first step in buying more Korean technology in the armed forces.” The Chilean Marine Corps deployed 30 such vehicles in November last year.

Gustav Slamecka, Czech ambassador to South Korea, said the drills will help his country discuss “future cooperation in the defense industry” with Seoul, noting Korea-Czech business ties are already strong in other sectors.

“Of course Korea is one of the major producers with efficient weapons, so we are looking at Korea as a potential supplier for the Czech Republic,” Slamecka said.

The envoy underscored boosting arms purchases in the face of growing global conflicts, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The world is becoming more dangerous these days with the wars in Ukraine, and some other conflicts. So we have to respond to that,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry in Seoul, which had led interagency efforts for the drills and set up a task force in December last year to streamline arms exports, said the diplomatic missions could take advantage of a “sales pitch” before the purchase.

Local weapons makers had also contributed to making the drills happen, according to the ministry.

Twenty-two diplomats from 18 countries -- including Poland, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and US -- took part in the demonstration. The military mobilized the K9 howitzers, the key export item, along with the K2 main battle tanks, K21 infantry fighting vehicles and Chunmoo artillery rocket systems. About 200 rounds of artillery shells were fired.

A day before marking the completion of his first year in office on Tuesday, Yoon touted foreign policy as something that could leave a mark on the anniversary, saying he would step up efforts to advance economic interests, including those involving the arms industry.

“We have eyes set on becoming the next arms player, after the US, Russia and France,” Yoon said in August last year at a speech marking 100 days in office. “Making the defense industry serve our strategic needs is crucial.”