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South Korea Joins Asia's Naval Arms Race


Not to be outdone by the neighbors, many of which have launched powerful new naval assets recently, South Korea introduced a brand new “state of the art” submarine, the Kim Jwa-jin. The 1,800-ton vessel, South Korea’s fourth, was christened by President Park Geun-hye, the Defense Minister, and other senior military officials. President Park had this to say on the occasion:

Submarine Kim Jwa-jin will contribute much to upholding our maritime sovereignty. Under the reality of sharp conflicts between national interests, it should be necessary to protect our waters and our national interests in the waters.

Let’s list the major new entrants in Asia’s intensifying naval arms race: China appears to be working on a second aircraft carrier and recently launched a reorganized and well-outfitted maritime police force. On the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Japan revealed the Izumo, a flat-top destroyer that looks suspiciously like an aircraft carrier. India showed off its first nuclear submarine and its first homemade aircraft carrier, which will be battle ready in a few years. All of these countries have announced that a renewed focus on maritime defense and naval upgrades over the next decade.

The launching of the Izumo in Japan raised a few eyebrows in Seoul and Beijing, not least because the ship is named after a destroyer that played an important role in the battles that began Japan’s brutal colonization of China and South Korea in the 1930s. The Kim Jwa-jin, meanwhile, will probably raise some hackles in Tokyo: it’s named after an anarchist and independence fighter who led guerrilla attacks against Japanese forces in China in the 1920s.

[The Chang Bogo, another of South Korea’s submarines; image courtesy of Wikimedia]

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  • tarentius

    The Kim Jwa-jin is a 214 type submarine of German design built by South Korea under license. It’s the fourth ROK submarine of this type and the 214 has been less than successful. In fact, the South Koreans have accused the German manufacturer of using the submarines built for South Korea to correct the many faults in them to improve them for the export market.
    These subs are extremely noisy, are unstable when moving on the surface, have periscope problems, and leak.
    Once again, VM is taking propaganda from a government minister at face value.
    And once again, the Izumo is not an aircraft carrier.
    Would VM please hire someone who can tell the difference between an M-16 and an F-16!

  • rheddles

    Building navies is what wealthy, maritime trading nations do. Why is ours shrinking?

  • Corlyss

    Hey, what are you mice behind the curtain doing while the cat’s away? Playing poker? Shootin’ craps? The stories briefed here have slowed to a trickle. The only reason I can think of is that the Prof is off. Com’on, guys and gals! Get with the program!

    • rheddles

      Apparently responsibility for lashings was not delegated.

      • Corlyss

        These Ivory Tower types! They are soooo impractical.

  • Tom Chambers

    It is amusing to see the old Izumo made out as an important combatant ship of WWII. It was an old, slow, long-obsolete cruiser that had been downgraded to a coast-defense vessel, unfit for regular fleet duty, and it got the flagship role in imperial Japan’s China campaign because (1) China had pretty much nothing to oppose it; (2) that’s all it was good for.

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