Defense of strategic exportsThe Ministry of Knowledge Economy signed a memorandum of understanding on a nuclear power generation deal with Turkey yesterday, moving Korea one step closer to winning the international bid to construct two nuclear reactors there. When added to last year’s contract with the United Arab Emirates for four Korean-model nuclear reactors worth $40 billion, Korea becomes a full-fledged atomic energy exporter.
But exporting nuclear power plants cannot be achieved by a competitive edge in technology and price alone. That will be possible only when supported by diplomacy, defense and finance. The export of nuclear power plants to the U.A.E. was possible through the combined efforts of President Lee Myung-bak and related government ministries. Our strategic export industry is now in the hands of the Korea Electric Power Corporation, which should be corrected.
The same goes for exports of military equipment. The T-50, Korea’s first supersonic aircraft, the K-2 Black Panther battle tank and the U-214 class submarine have already proven they are competitive in the global arena thanks to the effective combination of advanced information technology and traditional industry. Yet our defense industry still stops short of meeting its growing status because it frequently loses in international bidding to the United States, France and Britain.
The sad reality is that our defense companies often try to expand their global business by themselves, whereas defense companies in other developed countries do the job collectively and systematically through pan-government support agencies such as DSAA (in the United States), DESO (Britain), DIR (France) and SIBAT (Israel). In those countries, experts from government ministries are fully engaged in handling tasks ranging from the acquisition of bidding information to marketing and promotion.
Nuclear power plant construction and military equipment manufacturing are export industries with high added value. These industries should not limit themselves to the domestic market just to keep their operations above a certain level. For instance, some defense industry people are keeping a close watch on worldwide bidding to meet the growing demand overseas.
But we should ask ourselves why countries like France, Britain and Italy are devoting all of their energy and passion to their strategic exports.
We, too, should establish a pan-governmental body that will fully support the export of our defense materials. It is time for all the related experts in government to put their heads together to come up with a comprehensive strategy to reinforce this sector.