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South Korea to increase defense spending over five years

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South Korea plans to spend 346.7 trillion Korean won (U.S. $262.8 billion) in the next five years to bolster its defense capabilities amid, according to the country’s Defense Ministry.

The ministry announced its 2024-2028 midterm defense plan Tuesday, noting an increase of 17.3 trillion Korean won from last year’s version. The budgetary adjustment, which follows North Korea’s Nov. 21 launch of a reconnaissance satellite, calls for improved military capabilities, efforts to maintain troop levels and the modernization of defense facilities.

Specifically, funding to improve defense capabilities increased by 6%, from 107.4 trillion Korean won to 113.9 trillion Korean won; that is now expected to grow by 11.3% annually. This effort involves deterrence measures, growing a preemptive strike capability, and countering North Korean missiles and drones.

The country added 10.8 trillion Korean won to the initial figure of 224 trillion Korean won. That money will support troops and modernization programs to prepare a “strong and combat-ready military,” according to the ministry’s news release. Funding will also help the military reorganize itself to create “strategic units and advanced forces.”

Following North Korea’s satellite launch last month, South Korea suspended a no-fly provision in the 2018 inter-Korean treaty, enabling the South to monitor the North’s activities along their shared border. North Korea reacted by withdrawing from the pact entirely.

Tension escalated after the North reportedly stationed troops at 11 guard posts, established temporary bases and deployed military assets along the 4-kilometer-wide (2.5-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone. South Korean officials released images to back these claims.

North Korea has also opened more than 10 coastal artillery embattlements along the West Sea, and its guards were seen carrying handguns at the Joint Security Area in breach of a previous agreement. In turn, South Korea announced plans to restore 11 previously dismantled guard posts at the DMZ.

North Korea has committed approximately 17 violations of previous agreements, according to Ju Hyung Kim, a defense analyst at the Seoul-based Security Management Institute think tank. These include the five UAVs North Korea flew in South Korean airspace in December 2022.

And North Korea’s nuclear development program has rendered a 1992 denuclearization agreement between the two countries “practically null,” Kim told Defense News.

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