South Korea and Israel – ties warm up after “freeze”

The defence ties between Israel and South Korea have been considered “history” after KAI lost the contract to supply its T-50 advanced trainer to the Israeli air force (IAF).

The South Koreans were disappointed and angry at what they called “not a fair game”, that led to the selection of the Aermacchi M-346.

However, recently the South Koreans have reassessed the situation, and it seems that they now agree they made some mistakes.

While the Italians gave a written commitment for offsets, the officials in Seoul claimed that laws in their country do not allow them to do so.

In spite of the anger and disappointment, in recent days there were signs that South Korea is again a potential customer for the products of the Israeli defence and aerospace industries.

The potential shopping list includes unmanned air systems, the Rafael “Iron Dome” rocket interceptor and other goods.

This potential shopping list may become a signed contract if the Israeli navy decides to let Hyundai shipyards build its new missile boats.

A South Korean source told me that “everything is on the table” – and the interests are mutual in more than one aspect.

South Korea wants to show it is not a captive market for US-made defence systems – and these systems are urgently needed to protect Seoul and some main installations against the threat from neighboring North Korea.

Israel, on the other hand, wants good ties with manufacturing giants like Hyundai.

So, the situation has changed – and now we have to wait and see if and when it results in contracts.

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