The defense chiefs of South Korea and Poland on Wednesday agreed to further strengthen and broaden the scope of defense cooperation, in line with the progress made in defense industry cooperation, South Korea's Defense Ministry said. Both sides also discussed ways to conduct combined military exercises and promote military-to-military exchanges.
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and Poland's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Mariusz Blaszczak met at South Korean Air Force's 3rd Flying Training Wing in the city of Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, located approximately 300 kilometers south of Seoul.
Both sides signed a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, to establish the Joint Korean-Polish Committee on Cooperation in the Fields of Defense and Defense Industry.
Lee and Blaszczak presided over the inaugural meeting and engaged in a comprehensive discussion on ways to advance defense and defense industry cooperation, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry.
The defense ministers also committed to "deepening cooperation in various areas, aligning with the advancement of defense industry cooperation."
To that end, both sides discussed ways to conduct combined military exercises and make reciprocal visits between soldiers operating the same weapon systems, as initially agreed at the previous defense ministerial meeting in February.
They also had discussions on education and training programs for the operation of South Korea's weapon systems and agreed to "gradually expand the scope of cooperation in the future."
Poland holds a significant position as one of the key export markets for South Korea's defense industry, especially in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022. Poland has been actively supplying major arms to Ukraine, solidifying its position as a key contributor to Ukraine's defense capabilities.
Last year, South Korean defense contractors signed execution contracts with Poland for the supply of various defense equipment including: K2 tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers, FA-50 light attack aircraft and Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers. The total value of these contracts reached $12.4 billion.
As part of the agreement, the first batch of 10 K2 tanks and 24 K9 howitzers was promptly delivered to Poland in December, following the contract signing in August.
Before the bilateral meeting, Lee and Blaszczak also jointly attended a rollout ceremony for the first FA-50 light combat aircraft manufactured by Korea Aerospace Industries, which will be exported to Poland.
The event took place at the KAI headquarters in the city of Sacheon with the attendance of around 100 people, including South Korean Minister of Defense Acquisition Program Administration Eom Dong-hwan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Jung Sang-hwa, and Brig. Gen. Ireneusz Nowak, chief of the Air Force Directorate at the Polish Armed Forces General Command, were present at the event, according to KAI.
KAI signed an approximately $3 billion export contract, equivalent to approximately 3.9 trillion Korean won, with the Polish government in September last year. The contract entails the supply of 48 FA-50 aircraft.
KAI said Wednesday that the first batch of 12 FA-50 aircraft will be delivered to Poland from August until the end of this year, following the completion of flight tests by July.
The initial group of FA-50 aircraft has been designated as "FA-50 Gap Filler." This designation reflects its purpose of swiftly replacing aging fighter aircraft and filling the gap in Poland's fighting capabilities.
The remaining 36 aircraft will be the FA-50PL variant, specifically for Poland. This variant has been specially customized to fulfill the specific requirements of the Polish Air Force and features enhanced specifications, representing the highest level of performance available for the FA-50 aircraft.
The delivery of the FA-50PL aircraft is planned to begin in the second half of 2025 and will continue in a sequential manner until 2028.
"I am truly pleased that South Korea's FA-50 fighter aircraft, with its exceptional maneuverability and armament capabilities, combined with reliable logistic support, can genuinely contribute to the security and defense of Poland," Lee said during the ceremony.
The defense ministers of South Korea and Poland spent nearly a full day participating in various events.
Among their activities, they jointly watched live-fire exercises between South Korea and the United States. These exercises took place at the Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, which is situated only 25 kilometers south of the inter-Korean border.
During the live-fire drills, South Korea showcased its domestically developed advanced weaponry, including K-2 tanks, K-239 Chunmoo MLRS, K-9 self-propelled cannon howitzers.
The South Korean Defense Ministry said the live-fire drills, which simulate real-world scenarios, provided an opportunity for Poland to assess directly the effectiveness and reliability of South Korea's weapon systems and the operational capabilities of its military.