Israeli Military Firms Expand Presence in South Korea

The recent contracts between Israeli companies Rafael and Elbit with South Korean military technology companies are just two of a number of concerning developments taking place in recent months signaling a strengthening of economic and military ties between the two countries.

The recent ADEX arms expo held in Ilsan to north of the capital, Seoul had a whole section dedicated to Israeli weapons suppliers which included displays for Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael amongst others whom with South Korea already trades. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is one of Israel’s largest government-sponsored weapons manufacturers and has been promoting its controversial Iron Dome missile defense system to South Korea for the past two years. Iron Dome is being developed with funding from both Israel and the United States and was employed during Israel’s 2012 assault on Gaza which left 174 Palestinians including 104 civilians dead.

After recently acquiring 49% of Korean communications company PineTelecom which develops military technology for the Korean defense market, Rafael has moved into a stronger position to land future contracts with the Korean government. While Rafael and PineTelecom have worked on joint projects before, this move may be part of a strategy to increase its prospects for eventually selling the Iron Dome system to South Korea. The details of the contract have not been made public.

Rafael is not the only company seeking to expand its influence in the Korean market. After recently setting up a joint company in Korea named Sharp Elbit Systems Aerospace, Inc. with Korean company Sharp Aviation K Inc., Elbit Systems signed a four-year follow-on contract with Korea Aerospace Industries in October to supply advanced helmet mounted display systems for KAI’s Surion helicopters which are used by the Korean Army. Elbit is one of two main contractors of the electronic detection fence which is an integral part of Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank.

The expansion of military ties with Israeli companies profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestine only serves to undermine South Korea’s professed commitment to human rights and international law. Palestine Peace & Solidarity in South Korea supports the call from Palestinian civil society for boycotts, divestment and sanctions on the State of Israel until it ends its military occupation of Palestinian land. Military contracts like those described above only further empower the State of Israel to continue its illegal occupation while whilst allowing private companies to profit from it. The participation of South Korean companies and the South Korean military can only but be seen as an endorsement of Israel’s illegal occupation and must be condemned as such.

The annual combined trade volume between the two nations reached US$240 million in 2012. Arms transfers make up a substantial part of this figure. A full report (in Korean) on the Adex arms expo produced by Imagination for International Solidarity is available for download here. For further information on Israel – South Korea relations, you can download an electronic copy of Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea’s 2012 report here.