South Korea is looking to increase its spending on defence contracts with Israel, according to reports in Israeli newspaper Haaretz. South Korea seeks to benefit from Israel’s extensive border surveillance and defence experience, while Israel can learn from South Korea’s unique position.

In response to ‘intense aggression’ from North Korea, Seoul is to increase its defence budget by 25%. Part of the increase is likely to be spent on Israeli defence technology, including drones, missiles, radar technology and missile defence systems.

Increase in trade

Trade in military technology between the two countries has already seen a significant increase over the past three years, with the current annual spend estimated at $1.25bn. South Korean exports to Israel account for two-thirds of this, while Israeli exports to South Korea account for the remaining third.

Among the biggest deals were two contracts South Korea placed with Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary Elta for radar systems, one to identify missile launches and the other to be fitted to fighter jets. A significant reverse deal could follow if Israel goes ahead with a plan currently under negotiation to purchase South Korean T-50 trainer jets for the Israeli Air Force.

Border disputes

The reason for the booming military trade between South Korea and Israel is clear. Both are subject to bitter border disputes, and have developed their military hardware accordingly in order to monitor and defend the border. Developments to support expeditionary forces overseas or to cover vast distances are less of a priority.

Israel is known for being on the cutting edge of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology due to the need to monitor and defend its 1,000ml of land borders. It developed its first modern UAV as a response to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and is now one of the world’s biggest exporters of reconnaissance and attack drones.

South Korea’s border problems are exacerbated by the fact that, although its land borders are defined by the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) established at the end of the 1953 Korean War, its maritime borders are under dispute. This was one of the underlying causes of the recent attack on Yeonpyeong Island. As such, it seeks to gain a combination of land and border patrols, and missile defence systems.

Working together, South Korea and Israel have a great deal to offer each other, not just in trade but also in advancing border protection through their shared experience.