SEOUL -- Poland has now emerged as South Korea's fifth-largest trade surplus country, contributing approximately $9 billion, primarily fueled by exports of military equipment such as FA-50 light fighter jets and K-9 self-propelled howitzers, as reported by the Korea International Trade Association.
Owing to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Poland has played a crucial role in supplying military equipment to Kyiv, aiding its neighbor in repelling the Russian invasion. In July 2022, South Korea forged a supply deal with Poland to provide 648 units of K-9 howitzers, 980 K-2 tanks, and 48 FA-50 jet fighters. The deal, meant to beef up Poland's defense capabilities against a potential Russian invasion, also included licensed production of K-2 and K-9 variants in Poland.
In early 2023, Poland, along with Slovakia, dispatched 41 MiG-29 jet fighters to Ukraine, crossing a point that the Kremlin had considered a red line regarding foreign countries providing military support to Ukraine.
With the MiG-29 jet fighters gone, Poland turned its attention towards South Korea for FA-50 fighter planes. The multirole fighter, developed by the state-operated Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), is a variant of the T-50 supersonic trainer aircraft, with a maximum takeoff weight of about 12,300 kilograms (27,117 pounds). The FA-50 also features a cockpit layout similar to that of American F-16 jets, making it easier for pilots trained on the best-selling U.S. light fighter jet to adapt to its South Korean counterpart.
Data released by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) on January 18 showed that South Korean exports to Poland stood at about $9 billion in 2023, up 14.8 percent compared to a year ago. The institute said that the successful exports to Poland were pulled by exports of military equipment worth $649 million, which increased by 56.9 percent year-on-year. The combined export amount of military equipment and airplanes, including FA-50 fighter jets, was 1.1 billion, up 184 percent compared to a year ago.
The most significant portion of this export performance came from a single export item category of " other precision chemical raw materials," mainly dominated by cathode materials for secondary batteries. In the past year, exports of "other precision chemical raw materials" amounted to $2.234 billion, showing a 2.5 percent increase compared to the previous year.
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