Dealer sells fake gun parts to Korean military

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Dealer sells fake gun parts to Korean military

A Korean defense contractor is under investigation for fraud after selling one billion won ($866 million) in fake U.S. artillery components to the Korean Army and Navy over the past six to seven years.

Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office said it investigated the head of the company, surnamed Hwang, for suspicion of corruption. The prosecutor’s office only disclosed the first letter of the company’s name: M.

According to prosecutors and the Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the components supplier, M, made a deal with a major defense firm to construct artillery barrels and supply basic parts such as bolts, nuts and bearings using components imported from the United States.

But prosecutors found that Hwang actually placed the order with a domestic firm, sent it to the United States, then imported it back to South Korea. Prosecutors raided the defense firm last month, seizing documents exposing the operation. They also obtained relevant documents from DAPA.

According to the investigation, the reimported components were used in constructing the Army’s K-9 Thunder, a self-propelled howitzer, as well as 76mm naval guns. Both have been deployed near the border between South Korea and North Korea as key military assets in the event of an attack.

In November 2010, the K-9 Thunder played a key role in countering the North’s artillery shelling on one of the five islands near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), Yeonpyeong, that killed two South Korean civilians and two soldiers. The 76mm naval guns are loaded on Gumdoksuri class patrol ships in preparation for attacks by North Korean patrol boats near the contested NLL.

“In the military system, even a single soldering is important. Needless to say, so are the nuts and bolts of a gun,” said Suh Woo-duk, a defense industry professor at Konkuk University. “The barrels of these weapons are directly connected to their combat power, and must be fully tested.”

Prosecutors said they plan to request a preliminary arrest warrant for Hwang, after completing their investigation into the specific size of Hwang’s deliveries. They also plan to expand the investigation to all those involved and then hope to uncover any other weapons that may also have been made using reimported components.

BY JANG HYUK-JIN, SEO BOK-HYEON [kim.sohee905@joongang.co.kr]

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