After its partition and the failed invasion of the South, the hermit kingdom of North Korea has become the most militarized and headline state on Earth. Allocating citizen’s funds directed to hereditary autocracy, Pyongyang has amassed one of the world’s largest militaries with vast artillery stocks and nuclear weapons. The increasingly rogue actions have even made traditional allies like China concerned.

Despite not having a military the size of the North, South Korea has made strides to prepare for another potential showdown. Not only having a permanent American military presence as deterrence, but the rising defense industry of Seoul has also put the South at the forefront of geopolitics that the Kim regime cannot compete with.


When the Korean War ensued, Pyongyang was heavily armed by the Soviet Union and China, with most of those Cold War era stockpiles remaining in their service today. Under Kim Jong Un, the North has indiscriminately fired ballistic missiles as a show of force, with some flying directly over Japan to international condemnation. Already isolated, the North continued to be a pariah and was only seen as a useful buffer against a pro-democratic Korea by the CCP. The South would immediately take advantage of the Kim regime’s failed foreign policies.

South Korea, originally a dictatorship with a dark history, quickly transitioned itself late into the Cold War and became a democratic and technological powerhouse. Today, the country has become a major weapons exporter, which has increased its geopolitical status.

Self-Sustaining Capabilities

With a focus on research, development, and combating threats of not just the North but allies as well, the South’s defense industry has boomed over the past several years. One major customer of South Korea happens to be Poland, which also reassessed its national security with Russia’s attempted imperial conquest of Ukraine. With contracts worth over $12 billion, Warsaw has purchased a variety of military technology, such as the FA50s aircraft, K9 howitzers, and highly efficient K2 tanks.

After weeks of political gridlock in NATO, Germany gave the green light to fellow NATO members to send the Leopard tanks. Switzerland has also vetoed weapons produced with their components from reaching Ukraine—but this showed a flaw in Europe’s defense practices that South Korea looks to take advantage of in the future.

Bureaucratic practices with regard to weapon sales and use have become time-consuming, especially in a wartime environment in Ukraine, where the timing of military transfers and sales could mean life or death in the world’s largest conventional conflict since the Iran-Iraq War. East Asian nations such as South Korea and Japan have studied the response to these practices and have taken the initiative to bolster themselves to not be caught off guard by threats.