South Korea is poised to become the No. 4 arms exporter

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A self-propelled howitzer K9 by Hanwha Defense (Hanwha Defense)

South Korea’s arms exports are expected to reach $20 billion this year, according to an industry report Wednesday, bringing the country a step closer to becoming the world’s fourth-largest arms exporter.

But at the same time, calls for strengthening defense cybersecurity are increasing given the rise in hacker attacks in recent years.

The country’s arms exports have already reached $10 billion this year, surpassing annual exports of $7 billion last year, according to the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET). The country’s average export volume in recent years has been between 2 and 3 billion US dollars.

According to KIET, Korea ranked ninth in terms of global arms export volume in 2021. This year’s exports would put Korea in fourth place, behind defense power states the US, Russia and France, the report said.

A mega deal with Poland to sell various types of weapons, including K2 tanks, armored vehicles, jet trainers and light attack aircraft, is due to the surge in this year’s exports, KIET said.

Big players like Hanwha and Hyundai are about to close mega deals within this year.

Hanwha Defense’s next-generation Redback infantry fighting vehicle is believed to be one of the last two candidates for an Australian military project to replace legacy armored personnel carriers. The Korean company already inked a 1 trillion won ($708 million) deal to export the K9 howitzer to Australia last year.

Korea Aerospace Industries is also targeting an agreement with Malaysia for its FA-50, an advanced supersonic jet trainer and light fighter aircraft. Hyundai Rotem last week partnered with a Norwegian defense supplier to sell K2 tanks to Norway.

Separately, government data on Wednesday showed that the number of hacking attempts in South Korea’s defense sectors has risen by at least 70 percent to 82.5 percent over the past four years, targeting the state’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration and Agency for Defense Development Networks.

The majority of the 32,646 attacks in 2018 aimed to steal security-sensitive data on DAPA and ADD networks, such as B. Critical information about the military intranet, weapons system, R&D and production management of the country. Besides, hackers also tried to steal server administration rights, gain unauthorized access or embed pirated software.

Industry insiders said such attempts could also threaten the local defense industry, considering stolen information containing the research and development status of local weapons systems could lead to massive, irretrievable data leaks.

“Such accidents can also damage the image and credibility of local defense contractors, not to mention the economic and security damage,” an industry insider told The Korea Herald.

Most defense companies use two computers, one connected to the internet and the other only to the intranet, so the two separate networks can block external hacking attempts.

Over the past year, Korea Aerospace Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, which builds warships, have come under cyberattacks. KAI lost over 1.6 billion won in a business email scam, while DSME discovered hacking attempts on defense or security-related information twice in June and October respectively.

By Kim Da-sol ([email protected])

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