South Korea flag

South Korea

Missile

Last Updated: April, 2016

South Korea possesses short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and a potentially dual-use aerospace program. A series of bilateral guidelines between South Korea and the United States govern Seoul’s ballistic missile program. These guidelines have evolved over time to allow for greater range and payload capacity.

Missile Table for South Korea

South Korea joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2001 as a condition of its revised guidelines with the U.S. The following year, it also became a member of the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC). In October 2012, South Korea and the U.S. again agreed to revise the guidelines on ballistic missiles, increasing the range from 300 to 800 km with 500 kg payload.

Capabilities

South Korea has a series of short-range ballistic missiles based on the Nike Hercules design. Additionally, it deploys two series of cruise missiles, known as the Haesong and Hyonmu with ranges that could potentially reach 1,500 km. [1] While South Korea no longer possesses WMD, these missiles can carry WMD payloads.

History

In 1954, the United States and South Korea signed the ROK/U.S. Mutual Security Agreement, codifying their intent to defend each other against outside aggression. However, Park Chung-hee came to power in a surprise military coup, wich strained relations with Washington. Park embraced a policy of “self-reliant” national defense policy through the 1960s and 70s. Unease over U.S. commitment to the Mutual Security Agreement under Nixon and later Carter played into his goal of building a missile program. [2]

Ballistic Missiles

In 1971, President Park Chung-hee issued a confidential order to his cabinet to develop a missile program. The following year, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) gave the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) an official order to develop short-range tactical missiles and long-range surface to surface missiles under the project name “Aerospace Industry Project” (항공공업계획). [3] In 1972, Seoul and Washington agreed to an arrangement that allowed South Korea to reverse-engineer Nike Hercules surface-to-air missiles in exchange for limiting the range to 180 km and the payload to 500 kg. South Korea ultimately built two systems based on this design, the NHK-1 and NHK-2. [4]

South Korea’s Aerospace Industry Project accelerated in earnest in 1975 as it incorporated the “Yulgok Plan” (율곡사업) aimed at reducing the military gap between North and South Korea. The ADD collaborated on missile design with American and French contractors. [5]

In 1978, after three missile tests, South Korea successfully demonstrated the NHK-1 (K-1, Baekgom, 백곰) surface-to-surface missile with a range of 180 km and 500 kg payload. [6]

In 1979, the previous 1972 agreement was elevated to a government-level memorandum endorsed by the President and Minister of National Defense. [7] The U.S. was wary of the ADD's attempts to secretly start a nuclear program under Park. [8] The guidelines allowed for American technology procurement in exchange for strict adherence to the 1972 limits on range and payload. [9] In a move to bolster legitimacy and assuage U.S. fears, the new military regime after Park's assassination slashed the missile development program by firing over thirty ADD executive officials. [10]

After a 1983 assassination attempt by North Korea, President Chun Doo-hwan ordered the ADD to complete the Hyonmu by the 1988 Seoul Olympics. [11] It did so on 21 September 1985 with the first of three successful tests. The missile was in full operation by 1987. [12] The range and payload of the Hyonmu are 180 km and 500 kg respectively. The Hyonmu is an upgraded version of the Baekgom in terms of versatility, given that the Hyonmu can be topped with either a single high-explosive or cluster munitions warhead. According to the 1990 U.S. inspection of the Hyonmu, it complied with range and payload restrictions; however it is possible the range could have been extended to 250 km (beyond the agreed-upon 180 km) by 1999. [13] Two hundred Hyonmu-1 were deployed in two battalions, but currently the Hyonmu-1 is stored in a reserve force since its replacement by the Hyonmu-2. [14]

In the early 1990s, North Korea began testing and eventually deployed the 1,000 km-range Nodong missile. Seoul sought to renegotiate its guidelines, pointing to the threat of North Korea; however, the U.S. was reluctant to expand on the current guidelines, and continued to enforce export controls in accordance with the 1979 terms. At the same time President Roh Tae-woo began to warm relations with South Korea's former adversary, the Soviet Union, with USD $3 billion in loans and trade credits. [15] After signing a bilateral military cooperation agreement with Russia in 1992, South Korea began to focus on ballistic missile and space launch vehicle technology exchange using “Operation Siberian Brown Bear" (불곰사업) through South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). [16] Clandestine acquisitions from Russia followed, according to a South Korean businessman who reportedly moved to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia, where he won a contract to recover scrap metal from decommissioned START I Treaty ICBMs. He reportedly acquired enough parts for one Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), including two missile engines. [17]

The U.S. initially opposed South Korea joining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). However, after 20 rounds of talks starting in 1995, Washington and Seoul agreed to set new ballistic missile guidelines, wherein Seoul would join the MTCR in March 2001 and the parties would revise the missile range and payload guidelines up to 300 km and 500 kg respectively. [18] Throughout the process, Washington insisted that:

  1. “The U.S. would have the right to inspect missile production facilities;
  2. The ROK would have to provide information at each step prior to research, development, production, and deployment;
  3. The ROK could not conduct research on missile systems with a range greater than 300 km; and
  4. [The] ROK would have to disclose information on civilian rocket research.” [19]

South Korea developed the NHK-2 PIP B (Hyonmu-2B) with the goal of improving accuracy, and began deploying the Hyonmu-2B on its central and eastern borders since the end of 2009. [20]

On 7 October 2012, Seoul and Washington yet again agreed to revise missile guidelines allowing a missile range of up to 800 km. The guidelines for payload remain at 500 kg, but under the “trade-off” article, the payload can be increased in inverse proportion to range. [21] South Korea’s National Security Adviser, Chun Yung-woo, announced "if North Korea is to attack or provoke, we are able to incapacitate its nuclear and missile (capabilities) in the early stage. We have guaranteed various capabilities to protect the life and safety of our people." [22]

The new missile guidelines are controversial. South Korea's missiles can now reach all parts of North Korea, including its long-range missile bases and the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon. However, medium-range ballistic missiles are neither likely to deter attacks such as those on the Cheonan or the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, nor are they effective against North Korea’s mobile missile forces. [23] Furthermore, increased range could contribute to tensions in Northeast Asia, and negatively impact the nonproliferation community. [24]

Cruise Missiles

Seoul began focusing on cruise missile development in the 1990s because cruise missiles were not subject to the same range restrictions as ballistic missiles, and offered improved accuracy and flexibility on the battlefield. [25]

The SSM-700K (Haeseong) is South Korea's first anti-ship cruise missile with a 200 km range. The project began in 1996 and went into regular production by 2006. South Korea began development of the Haesong-2 in 2010. [26]

South Korea developed the Hyonmu series as a land-attack missile based on the Tomahawk and has deployed all three types since the early 2000s. [27]

Dual-Use Space Launch Vehicles

The Baekgom and Hyonmu-1 programs gave impetus to South Korea's scientific rocket development program. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) launched its first research rocket, Korea Sounding Rocket-1, a single stage solid fuel rocket, in 1993. Five years later, KARI launched its second research rocket, KSR-2, which is a two stage solid propellant rocket. In 2002, KARI succeeded in testing its first liquid propellant single stage rocket, the KSR-3. [28] Following these initial tests, South Korea implemented a program for its first space-launch vehicle space-launch vehicle (SLV), the Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV), also known as Naro. In 2004, Seoul and Moscow signed an agreement for aerospace technology cooperation, which was followed up with a technology safeguards agreement in 2006. [29]

After numerous delays, South Korea launched the two-stage KSLV-1 rocket on 25 August 2009. The launch was intended to place an earth and atmospheric monitoring satellite—the Science and Technology Satellite-2 (STSTAT-2)—into orbit. The satellite reached an altitude of about 390 km, but could not maintain an orbit; it was destroyed during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. [30] In a 2010 launch, the rocket exploded 137 seconds after takeoff. [31] Seoul ultimately achieved a successful orbit in January 2013. [32] The success of this launch raises concerns that South Korea has sufficient technology for a long-range ballistic missile system that could deliver WMD payloads. [33]

South Korea is now developing an indigenous KSLV-2 rocket. The KSLV-2 consists of three stages for a 1.5 metric ton payload, and a potential altitude of 600-800 km. KARI plans to test the first two stages in 2018, and if successful, the three stage space launch vehicle in 2021. [34] After testing is complete, KARI plans to utilize the KSLV-2 to launch South Korea's first lunar orbiter in 2023 and a lunar lander in 2025. [35]

Recent Development and Current Status

In 2012, North Korea announced that it would launch its Unha-3 rocket to put a satellite into orbit on 12 April 2012. Though the launch failed, it was widely seen as a chance to test long-range missile technology. On 19 April 2012, South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak made a public visit to the ADD; the MND simultaneously released video footage of the Hyonmu-2 ballistic missile and the Hyonmu-3 cruise missile flying into a target resembling North Korea's Kumsusan Palace. [36] As Kim Jong Un and much of the North Korean leadership had visited Kumsusan Palace to honor founding father Kim Il Sung that same day, North Korea found the test an act of agression. [37]

In 2012, South Korea started developing a ship-to-land version of the Haeseong missile with an inertial navigation system and infrared imaging sensors instead of radar. [38] In February 2013, the MND disclosed its domestically developed 200-1,000 km range ship-to-land cruise missiles. [39]

In March 2014, South Korea successfully tested a new ballistic missile with a range of 500 km, capable of striking the North. Seoul aims to develop new ballistic missiles with a range of 800 km. [40]

South Korea's MND is seeking to increase missile defense capabilities through a system known as "Kill Chain" by building upon its original Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD). In April 2015, the Ministry of National Defense submitted its budget for the 2016-2020 fiscal year, requesting KRW 232.5 trillion to improve missile capabilities and ensure deterrence against the North. 6 trillion will be distributed in building the Kill Chain, the country's preemptive strike apparatus; 2.7 trillion won will be used in developing the KAMD. [41]

In June 2015, South Korea tested a longer-range ballistic missile. The Defense Ministry declined to reveal the exact range and payloads, but claimed the new missile is capable of striking all parts of North Korea. Seoul plans to deploy the missile by the end of 2015. [42]

Sources:
[1] Gwak Chang-ryul, "사정거리 1,500 km 國産 크루즈 미사일 실전배치 [Indigenous Cruise Missile of 1,500 km Range Deployed],” Chosun Ilbo, 17 July 2020, http://news.chosun.com.
[2] Chung Yong-soo, "Special knowledge <400> 방위사업 40년 [40 Years of Defense Industry]," Joongang Daily, 12 January 2012, http://article.joinsmsn.com.
[3] Koo Sang-Hoi, “한국 미사일 개발의 산 증인 구상회 박사 회고(1) [Reminiscence from a Living Witness of the Korean Missile Program, Dr. Koo Sang-hoi]” Shindonga, February 1999, www.donga.com.
[4] Koo Sang-Hoi, “한국 미사일 개발의 산 증인 구상회 박사 회고(1) [Reminiscence from a Living Witness of the Korean Missile Program, Dr. Koo Sang-hoi]” Shindonga, February 1999, www.donga.com; “South Korea,” Federation of American Scientists, 3 February 2000, www.fas.org; Oh Won-chul, 한국형 경제건설 [Korean Economic Construction Model] (Seoul, CEOI, 1996) p. 560.
[5] Oh Won-chul, 한국형 경제건설한국형 경제건설 [Korean Economic Construction Model] (Seoul, CEOI, 1996) p. 563.
[6] Kim Byung-ki, “포착 10분 이내 북한 미사일 기지 격파하라 [Destroy North Korea’s Missile Base within 10 Minutes of Detection]” Shindonga, 25 September 2012, http://news.naver.com.
[7] Kim Hak-Jin, "'北 미사일 억지력' 길을 찾아야 [South Korea Should Have Missile Deterrence Against North Korea]" Donga Ilbo, 7 October 2009, http://news.donga.com.
[8] Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (Indianapolis, Basic Books, 2001) pp. 68-74.
[9] Daniel Pinkston, “The New South Korean Missile Guidelines and Future Prospects for Regional Stability,” Strong & Prosperous, International Crisis Group, 25 October 2012, www.crisisgroup.org.
[10] Lee Eun-young, "ADD 무기개발 3총사의 핵, 미사일 개발 비화 [The ADD Trio’s Secret Story of Nuclear and Missile Development]" Shindonga vol. 567, 2006, pp. 276-287.
[11] Cha Young-gu, 국방정책의 이론과 실제 [Principle and Reality of Defense Policy] (Seoul, Oleum, 2002) p. 89.
[12] Koo Sang-Hoi, “한국 미사일 개발의 산 증인 구상회 박사 회고(1) [Reminiscence from a Living Witness of the Korean Missile Program, Dr. Koo Sang-hoi]” Shindonga, February 1999, www.donga.com.
[13] Yoo Yong-won, “|무기의 세계| 한국군 탄도 미사일 대표 주자 현무 미사일 [Korea’s Foremost Ballistic Missile, Hyunmoo]” Navercast, 16 April 2012, http://navercast.naver.com; Kim Do-hyung, “한-미 미사일시험 논란 [U.S. - Korea Missile Tests and Controversy]" Hankyoreh, 20 April 1999, http://m.hani.co.kr.
[14] Kim Byung-ki, “포착 10분 이내 북한 미사일 기지 격파하라 [Destroy North Korea’s Missile Base within 10 Minutes of Detection]” Shindonga, 25 September 2012, http://news.naver.com.
[15] Daniel Pinkston, “The New South Korean Missile Guidelines and Future Prospects for Regional Stability,” Strong & Prosperous, International Crisis Group, 25 October 2012, www.crisisgroup.org.
[16] Daniel Pinkston, “The New South Korean Missile Guidelines and Future Prospects for Regional Stability,” Strong & Prosperous, International Crisis Group, 25 October 2012, www.crisisgroup.org.
[17] Gang Hun, “[Why] 어느 사업가의 고백 ‘내가 ICBM (대륙간 탄도미사일)한국에 들여왔다[[Why] A Businessman’s Confession: I brought South Korea an ICBM],” The Chosun Ilbo, 25 June 2011, http://news.chosun.com; Daniel Pinkston, “The New South Korean Missile Guidelines and Future Prospects for Regional Stability,” Strong & Prosperous, International Crisis Group, 25 October 2012, www.crisisgroup.org.
[18] Daniel Pinkston, “The New South Korean Missile Guidelines and Future Prospects for Regional Stability,” Strong & Prosperous, International Crisis Group, 25 October 2012, www.crisisgroup.org.
[19] Daniel Pinkston, “The New South Korean Missile Guidelines and Future Prospects for Regional Stability,” Strong & Prosperous, International Crisis Group, 25 October 2012, www.crisisgroup.org.
[20] Oh Dong-yong, “[특종] 사거리 50 0km 국산 탄도미사일 ‘현무-2B’ 실전배치했다! [[Exclusive Report] Hyonmu 2-B with 500 km Range is Deployed]” The Chosun Monthly, no. 3, 2011, http://monthly.chosun.com.
[21] Sang-Hun Choe, “U.S. Agrees to Let South Korea Extend Range of Ballistic Missiles,” The New York Times, 7 October 2012, www.nytimes.com.
[22] KJ Kwon, “South Korea Says U.S. Agrees to Extend Seoul’s Ballistic Missile Range,” CNN, 7 October 2012, www.cnn.com.
[23] Jeffrey Lewis, “RoK Missile Rational Roulette,” Arms Control Wonk, 9 October 2012, http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com.
[24] Jeffrey Lewis, “Missiles Away!,” Foreign Policy, 9 October 2012, www.foreignpolicy.com.
[25] Office of the President of the Republic of Korea, Cheong Wa-dae, “한미 미사일 지침 개정 주요 내용 및 의미,기대효과 [The Significance and Expected Effect of The Revision of The Missile Agreement Between Korean and U.S.]” 23 October 2012, www.president.go.kr.
[26] “Hae Seong (SSM-700K),” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems, 18 October 2012.
[27] “S. Korea Deploys New Missile Capable of Hitting Anywhere in N. Korea,” Yonhap News Agency, 18 April 2012, http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr.
[28] “KSR 3 [Korea Surrounding Rocket 3],” Doosan Encyclopedia, http://terms.naver.com.
[29] “우여곡절 나로호 [Naro-ho in Complications],” Hankyoreh, 29 November 2012, www.hani.co.kr.
[30] Kim Tong-hyung, "Satellite Fails to Enter Orbit," Korea Times, 25 August 2009, www.koreatimes.co.kr.
[31] Tong-hyung Kim, "Naro Rocket Blows Up in Midair," The Korea Times, 10 June 2010, www.koreatimes.co.kr.
[32] Jung-yoon Choi and Barbara Demick, "South Korea Launches Satellite into Orbit," The Los Angeles Times, 30 January 2013, www.latimes.com.
[33] Wa Zhou and Guangjin Cheng, "Republic of Korea Hopes for Third Time Lucky on Rocket Launch," China Daily, 30 January 2013, http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn.
[34] Rui C. Barbosa, “South Korea Launch of KSLV-1 – Russia Claims it Failed,” NASA Spaceflight, 25 August 2009, www.nasaspaceflight.com.
[35] Hyong-ki Park, “Glitches do not Deter Korea’s Space Program,” The Korea Herald, 29 November 2012, http://khnews.kheraldm.com.
[36] Footage from KBS (Korean), “South Korea-Ballistic Missile & Cruise Missile,” 19 April 2012, via: www.youtube.com; Choe Sang-hun, "North Korea Threatens South with Military Action," New York Times, 23 April 2012, www.nytimes.com.
[37] Kim Hee-jin, “South Shows off Missiles of its Own,” JoongAng Daily, 20 April 2012, http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com; “Kim Jong Un Has Photo Session with Participants in Military Parade,” KCNA, 20 April 2012, www.kcna.co.jp.
[38] "S. Korea Deploys New Missile Capable of Hitting Anywhere in N. Korea,” Yonhap News Agency, 18 April 2012, http://yonhapnews.co.kr.
[39] Kim Eun-jung, “S. Korea Readies Military After N. Korea Nuclear Test,” Yonhap News Agency, 13 February 2013, http://yonhapnews.co.kr.
[40] Jack Kim, “South Korea Extending Ballistic Missile Range to Counter North’s Threat,” Reuters, 4 April 2014, www.reuters.com.
[41] Oh Seok-min, “S. Korea to Raise Defense Spending by 2020,” Yonhap News Agency, 19 April 2015, http://yonhapnews.co.kr.
[42] “S. Korea Test-fires Longer-range Ballistic Missile,” Yonhap News Agency, 3 June 2015, http://yonhapnews.co.kr.

Get the Facts on South Korea
  • Operates 23 nuclear power reactors which provide 35% of its electricity
  • Completed destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile in July 2008
  • Owns a well-developed biotechnology infrastructure, but no evidence suggests the pursuit of a biological weapons program

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.