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In recent years Poland ordered/purchased a lot of military hardware from S. Korea.

• K2 Black Panther Tanks - Poland signed a contract in 2019 to purchase 180 K2 tanks from South Korea. The K2 is an advanced main battle tank produced by Hyundai Rotem. Deliveries of the tanks to Poland started in 2021 and will continue through 2025.

• K239 Chunmoo Multiple Rocket Launchers - Poland ordered 180 K239 multiple rocket launcher systems from South Korea in 2019. The K239 fires rockets with a range of up to 80 kilometers. Deliveries of these systems started in 2021.

• FA-50 Light Combat Aircraft - In 2020, Poland signed a contract to acquire 48 FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea. The FA-50 is a light combat aircraft produced by Korea Aerospace Industries. Poland will use the FA-50 for training and light attack missions. Deliveries of the aircraft will begin later in 2022.

• K30 Biho Turret Systems - Poland has purchased an undisclosed number of K30 Biho 30mm turrets for installation on its KTO Rosomak infantry fighting vehicles. The K30 is an automated turret system produced by Hanwha Defense.

• K9 Thunder Self-Propelled Howitzers - Poland has ordered 48 K9 self-propelled howitzers from South Korea. The K9 is an advanced 155mm howitzer mounted on an armored chassis. Deliveries of the K9 systems to Poland are expected to begin later in 2022.

What is the reason for choosing S. Korea rather than sourcing them from Europe?

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    One explanation mentioned in the news is availability. The factories in Western Europe are relatively small and working at capacity. Another may be politics, Poland is at odds with much of the EU.
    – o.m.
    Jul 22, 2023 at 17:51
  • In addition to om's point there is another possible aspect. Consider the Gripen (Swedish fighter jet) and Challenger (British MBT), both considered for Ukraine. Both weapons have essentially completed their production runs and are not manufactured anymore. South Korea on the other hand will likely be motivated (cough, DPRK, cough) to keep their production lines open for decades and have an army with 2200 tanks some of which are clearly due for replacement (wiki page seems in need for updating). Jul 24, 2023 at 22:33
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    re. close reasons as "opinion based and not verifiable by the public": most well-run countries' militaries, when deciding to procure weapons will a) issue a call to tender with specific requirements and b) upon taking a decision on which vendor to buy from, will detail the rationale for making that choice. Industry/defense analysts, as well as scorned suitors, will often provide extra unofficial context. In short, there are plenty of sources for this type of answers. Jul 24, 2023 at 22:44
  • Voting not to close - Buying and selling weapons, and the countries involved in it, does very much have politics behind it. It also involved international diplomacy. As such the question is very much in the scope of Po.SE. Since democratic countries also have to justify buying and selling these weapons to their own citizens, there will be public credible justifications for it that can be cited.
    – sfxedit
    Jul 29, 2023 at 10:51

2 Answers 2

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While Mar-Z appears to be correct on many of the factors that go into buying the weapons themselves, another important aspect is the resulting industrial cooperation:

The deal established consortiums of South Korean and Polish companies that will build the weapons, maintain the fighter jets and provide the framework to eventually supply other European states, said Lukasz Komorek, director of the Export Projects Office at the state-owned Polish Armaments Group (PGZ).

That will include building South Korean arms on license in Poland, officials in Seoul and Warsaw said. Plans call for 500 of 820 tanks and 300 of 672 howitzers to be built in Polish factories starting in 2026.

"We don't want to just play the role of subcontractor, technological transfer provider and the purchaser," Komorek said. "We can both create the synergy and use our experiences to conquer the European markets."

Insight: Inside South Korea's race to become one of the world’s biggest arms dealers by Joyce Lee and Josh Smith published by Reuters on May 29, 2023

By making this deal, Poland doesn't just get weapons, it gets a weapons industry. There is also a considerable technology transfer which will allow Polish companies to eventually produce weapon systems independent of South Korean licences.

As most countries and manufacturers are hesitant to create their own competition, license production is rare. In my research into main battle tanks, I found no license production agreements for the Leclerc, Challenger 2 or Abrams and just three for the Leopard 2 (Switzerland, Spain and Greece), all of which appear limited to domestic production.

South Korea seems to be content with Poland exporting license-produced material within Europe, which would be an additional boon to the Polish arms industry.

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According to independent press the reasons are:

  • availability - due to the Russian invasion in Ukraine Poland government needed/wanted to purchase arms at very short notice. The European and US-American suppliers would not be able to deliver until late 2030ths.
  • quality of Korean arms is equivalent to the European ones. Some models are compatible or similar to the ones already in use in Poland. Others might be adapted to the NATO standards by Polish industry.
  • price - affordable in comparison to US-American ones. Especially FA-50 aircraft and K2 tanks.

My answer is based on an article available online and written in Polish by an independent journalist. I have summarized the facts like numbers, prices and delivery dates to a short answer.

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    Welcome, to politics.SE. Can you, please, link to some of the press reports, which you mentioned, in the answer? Please, don't take this as a challenge to your answer. It's just how things are done here. Supporting answers with links is considered more reliable here than simply mentioning that such links exist.
    – wrod
    Jul 24, 2023 at 6:30

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