Posted : 2022-09-17 09:00
Updated : 2022-09-18 17:09
Kwon Oh-sung, the president of the organizing committee for the Defense Expo Korea, poses at the headquarters of the Association of the Republic of Korea Army in Seoul. Courtesy of Association of the Republic of Korea Army
DX Korea to take place at KINTEX Wednesday through Sunday
By Kang Seung-woo
Korea has been expanding its presence in the global defense industry on the back of its recent massive arms deal with Poland, worth an estimated 20 trillion won ($14.3 billion), an achievement bringing more attention to Korean-made military hardware.
The agreement even encouraged President Yoon Suk-yeol last month to unveil a plan to make Korea one of the world's top four weapons suppliers.
Amid the winning vibes, Kwon Oh-sung, the president of the organizing committee for the Defense Expo Korea (DX Korea), believes that the biennial defense fair can play a role in helping the country to establish itself as a solid international powerhouse in the sector.
DX Korea, hosted by the Association of the Republic of Korea Army and co-organized by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), is the nation's lone exhibition for equipment of ground forces and marketing defense products to not only international buyers but also to defense purchasing decision makers from all around the world. Since its first iteration in 2014, DX Korea has solidified its position as the platform for international cooperation in constructing cutting-edge national defense power.
This year's edition is scheduled to take place Wednesday through Sunday at KINTEX in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, with 210 international and local exhibitors participating.
"The defense industry is a difficult sector to access and hold exhibitions for, so the DX Korea has served as a place helping people with mutual interests to meet each other," Kwon said in an interview with The Korea Times.
"As top military brass, government officials and representatives from defense companies flock to DX Korea, arms deals can be made, while each country's military requirements can be confirmed as well."
Kwon, a former Army chief of staff, said the upcoming DX Korea will be different from its predecessors in a few ways.
"Amid increasing interest in defense exports, we have extended 'customized' invitations strategically," he said.
According to him, the defense ministry, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, the Army and defense firms each invited players, based on respective needs.
Kwon also said this year's edition will come up with a new program helping small and mid-sized defense companies promote their products.
"In general, exhibitions proceed centered on major firms, so we have devised the 'Pitch Program' that will introduce smaller exhibitors' new products and technologies," he said, adding that 12 companies have applied for the program.
Unlike other international military fairs, DX Korea stages a massive live fire and maneuver demonstration, with the 2022 edition to feature 19 types of military vehicles and equipment at the Republic of Korea Army's training Center in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi Province.
"It is a large-scale firing demonstration that is not usually feasible in other military expos," Kwon said.
Foreign soldiers visit a booth at DX Korea 2020. Courtesy of the organizing committee for the DX Korea
However, the organizing committee chief said the demonstration will not end up being just a "show of force."
"Through the firing event, Korean-made military hardware could appeal to potential buyers," he added.
In July, Poland signed deals with Korea to acquire 48 FA-50 jets, 980 K2 battle tanks and 648 K9 howitzers ― one of the country's most important and largest defense orders in recent years.
Against this backdrop, President Yoon wants Korea to join the world's top four defense exporters.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Korea ranked eighth in the world in arms exports from 2017 to 2021, with its volume accounting for 2.8 percent. The United States, Russia and France rounded out the top three, representing a combined 69 percent, but China, which came in fourth, logged 4.6 percent.
Kwon said DX Korea could give a further boost to the "ambitious" goal.
"If each company were to just develop defense technologies and make products, they would have to put in more efforts for themselves," Kwon said.
"However, we provide a place at DX Korea, which will become a venue to promote their defense products and exchange essential information for the future defense development.
"In short, DX Korea helps the president's words turn into action."